Africa expansion for UMG/Boomplay and for Freeme Digital

From DSP launches to label expansions to [waves enormous plug] new education initiatives for the industry, there is plenty of exciting activity happening around Africa’s music ecosystem. There are two more examples to report on this morning. First, Universal Music Group has extended its licensing deal with streaming service Boomplay from seven countries in Africa to […]

Universal Music Group’s revenues grew by 3.8% in 2020

Universal Music is the latest major label to publish financial results showing that its business rode out the Covid-19 storm in 2020. UMG’s revenues for the year grew by 3.8% to €7.43bn (around $8.95bn) – or by 4.7% when calculated as ‘organic growth’. Within that, UMG’s recorded music revenues grew by 5.9% to €5.97bn, although that increase […]

UMG and Gameloft launch Queen: Rock Tour mobile game

After a fan-made music videos contest and the band’s official TikTok debut, the latest stage in Queen’s digital strategy has been revealed: a mobile game. It’s called ‘Queen: Rock Tour’, and launched today for Android and iOS. Universal Music is keeping it in the family too: the Vivendi family, since the game is by Gameloft, the games publishing subsidiary of UMG’s […]

Universal Music Group to go public with Amsterdam listing

The London Stock Exchange may be the listing venue of choice for companies like Hipgnosis and Round Hill Music, but Universal Music Group will be going public on a different European exchange – later this year. Parent company Vivendi confirmed its plans to spin off UMG on the Euronext exchange in Amsterdam, in an announcement that came […]

Sandbox Issue 269: Indie-Visible: balancing Indie rock marketing on streaming and IRL

Lead: Indie-Visible – Marketing indie rock bands on streaming platforms can be tricky for a number of reasons: their traditionally album-based release cycle goes counter to the current approach of endless singles; their aesthetic, ethos and fandom require patience and context; and while their fanbase wants their favourite artists on streaming services, they also demand special physical products […]

Triller hits back at UMG claiming artists can license direct

If you thought Donald Trump’s advisers’ attempts to overturn the US presidential election would be the most surprising legal arguments you’d hear in 2021… Well, Triller might just have, ahem, trumped them. After Universal Music Group pulled its catalogue from the short video platform saying it had “shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists”, Triller […]

Universal Music Group could now go public by the end of 2021

A consortium led by Chinese tech giant Tencent has completed its deal to buy another 10% stake in Universal Music Group, valuing the major label at €30bn overall. The consortium now owns 20% of UMG, with majority owner Vivendi saying that the expanded stake “will notably enable UMG to further develop its activities in Asia”. Vivendi’s announcement […]

UMG and Lego’s partnership spawns Vidiyo music video-making app

In April 2020, Universal Music Group and Lego announced that they were working together on some new music-focused products for kids, to be released in 2021. Now the first of those products has been unveiled. It’s called Vidiyo, and it includes an augmented reality app, a new collection of Lego minifigures, and a catalogue of music from […]

Major labels gave evidence to the UK’s music streaming economics inquiry… so what did we learn?

It’s actually pretty rare to get genuine smoking-gun ‘gotchas’ from political inquiries in the moment. When they work well, it’s more about patient, forensic questioning that elicits genuinely enlightening answers – and sometimes quotes that later come back to haunt the speaker. Did we get that from this morning’s sessions at the UK parliamentary inquiry into […]

UMG signs music licensing deal with fitness service Variis

Variis isn’t a fitness startup as such: it’s a fitness app launched last March by Equinox Media, owner of a chain of gyms in the US. The app works with a Peloton-style connected exercise bike, which costs $2,500, and provides video lessons from instructors. Now, like Peloton, Variis is signing licensing deals with major music labels. […]

Spotify CFO says UMG is ‘willing to lean in more aggressively’ than rivals

Look away, non-Universal major labels: you may feel a little testy about the latest interview with Spotify CFO Paul Vogel, at a conference organised by RBC Capital Markets. He was asked about Spotify’s latest licensing deal with UMG, which includes access to tests of new marketing tools. “There’s nothing preventing the other labels from doing it, […]

UMG’s Bravado inks merch deal with Alibaba’s Tmall platform

2020 has been a really interesting year for Universal Music Group’s various arms in China. From local signings like Linong Chen and Sunnee to a joint label with Tencent Music, via gaming songwriting camps and the small matter of $1.2m of Taylor Swift album sales in a few days on NetEase Cloud Music. Weaving these strands into the overall story of UMG’s China strategy […]

Amazon Music HD adds ‘thousands’ of tracks from UMG and WMG

We should clarify this headline quickly: Amazon Music HD already has many more tracks from Universal Music and Warner Music. The news is that Amazon is working with the two labels to remaster thousands of tracks in ‘Ultra High Definition’ for its hi-res streaming service. Amazon’s definition of Ultra HD is tracks with a bit […]

Kanye West on contracts campaign: ‘I will help set precedents’

The music industry may still be picking its way through Kanye West’s self-leaked Universal Music Group deals, but West is making it clear that his campaign around artist contracts is more than just a moment on Twitter. “The desired effect will only be achieved when every artist owns their masters. I’m Team ‘Free Artists.’ I’m […]

Logic blames UMG for not letting game-streamers use his music

Having officially retired from music earlier this year, before signing what was reportedly a seven-figure exclusive deal to stream on Twitch, artist Logic is a prominent figure at the intersection of music and livestreaming. A tweet on Friday is thus making a few waves. “Too many of my gaming homies @Ninja included have wanted to play my […]

The Rolling Stones to open shop on London’s Carnaby Street

Soho’s swinging Carnaby Street (copyright: the 1960s) is getting a new boutique retailer from 9 September: RS No. 9 Carnaby. Otherwise known as a ‘world-first flagship store’ for The Rolling Stones. As part of their wide-ranging new deal signed with Universal Music Group in 2018, the band have worked with UMG’s Bravado subsidiary on the new […]

NetEase Cloud Music saw ‘triple-digit revenue growth’ in Q2

Chinese technology firm NetEase published its latest financial results last week, with no new figures for its NetEase Cloud Music streaming service. However, the service was mentioned in the subsequent earnings call with analysts. “For NetEase Cloud Music, we continued to see triple-digit revenue growth in the second quarter year over year, with both membership and […]

UMG signs NetEase deal and launches label with Tencent Music

It was a busy day for Tencent Music, and for China’s digital music industry as a whole. Universal Music Group made two announcements about its latest deals there: one with NetEase Cloud Music, and the other with Tencent Music. The NetEase deal is significant: a multi-year direct licensing agreement (rather than UMG’s previous deal that […]

LiveXLive financials reveal revenues of $10.5m for Q2 2020

US music-streaming and livestreaming company LiveXLive has published its latest financial results, including a new record for quarterly revenues: $10.5m. That’s in the second quarter of 2020 (its fiscal Q1), with those revenues having grown by 11% year-on-year. The company reported a net loss of $7.5m though, although at least that was down from $11m this […]

Taylor Swift Folklore made $1.2m in three days… from one Chinese DSP

Taylor Swift’s new album ‘Folklore’ may have been a surprise release, but its popularity is entirely unsurprising. According to Republic Records, the album sold more than 1.3m copies in its first 24 hours, and was streamed 80.6m times on Spotify and 35.5m times on Apple Music. Critical acclaim has been flooding in for the album, […]

Taylor Swift drops surprise album… with eight deluxe editions

“Surprise,” wrote Taylor Swift in a social post yesterday. “Tonight at midnight I’ll be releasing my entire brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.” The album – ‘Folklore’ – was written and recorded in Covid-19 isolation. “Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this […]

The Streets set for August pay-per-view livestream concert

The Streets are the latest artist to explore ticketed livestreams, with plans for a pay-per-view concert on 6 August filmed at the Earth venue in London. It’s part of the band’s series of drive-in concerts across the UK, planned to replace the string of festival dates which were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The […]

UMG strikes distribution deal with Indian label Desi Melodies

Universal Music Group has big ambitions in India, having launched local hip-hop label Mass Appeal India last August; building its VRYL Originals roster of artists; and expanding its leadership team early this year. Now UMG has announced a distribution deal with Indian label Desi Melodies, which focuses on Punjabi music – at a time when […]

UMG expands partnership with USC Annenberg diversity initiative

“Black artists consistently top the popular music charts, but African-Americans and other people of colour are not adequately represented in decision-making roles in the music business,” is the first line of a press release from… the biggest label group in the music business. So what is Universal Music doing about this disparity? Having already pledged a $25m ‘change […]

UMG signs former Rocket Girls 101 star Sunnee to global deal

Earlier this week we reported on UMG’s latest success story in China: strong figures for the new album by artist Linong Chen. Now it’s talking about a new signing in the country: Sunnee (杨芸晴) from girl group Rocket Girls 101 (火箭少女101) who split up earlier this week. UMG is releasing Sunnee’s new single ‘By Your Side’ […]

Universal Music launches Spinnup distribution arm in Japan

Spinnup is one of Universal Music Group’s distribution services for independent artists, which originally launched in Sweden in 2013 before expanding to other countries. Artists can use it to upload their music to digital services, with the additional hope of being spotted by UMG’s A&R teams – more than 80 Spinnup-distributed artists have been signed by […]

Universal Music hails China sales success for Linong Chen

The major western music companies are, it’s fair to say, very keen to expand their foothold in the Chinese music industry. From beefing up their offices in China to taking investment from its digital industry’s giant Tencent, Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music are all making the country a growth priority. Some new numbers […]

Amber Grimes and Nicole Wyskoarko talk leadership, support and diversity

Nicole Wyskoarko is EVP of urban operations at Interscope Records, and Amber Grimes is SVP of global creative at Capitol Music Group. Their joint keynote for the Midem conference, a video interview conducted by Billboard’s Gail Mitchell, was published this morning. It addresses topics including the current Black Lives Matters protests following the killing of […]

Today’s positive music industry-related coronavirus news (27 April)

The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) is launching a campaign called #saveourvenues, which aims to drum up support for 556 ‘grassroots music venues’ that it says are in danger of permanent closure in the UK. “The situation is dire, government support has been exhausted, and it now falls to artists, music fans, local communities and the […]

Lego and Universal Music team up for kids’ products in 2021

Universal Music Group’s latest partnership is with Lego. Announced this morning, it’ll see the pair teaming up for “the development of a new suite of Lego products launching in 2021, created to encourage and inspire the next generation of musicians, creatives and fans”. Details of what those products will be have not been announced yet: […]

Tencent finally seals the deal for 10% stake in Universal Music

On the very last day of 2019, Tencent Holdings (heading up a consortium of investors) signed an agreement to acquire 10% of Universal Music Group. Now, in a neat bit of quarterly timing, that deal went through on the very last day of the first quarter of 2020. As previously announced, the deal valued Universal Music Group […]

Bytedance’s Resso launches in India but can it drive subscriptions?

A much-hyped freemium music service has launched in India, but without one of the world’s major music companies. Déjà vu, anyone? Almost exactly a year on from Spotify’s debut in India amid a dispute with publisher Warner Chappell, Bytedance has officially launched its widely-anticipated Resso streaming service in India. There’s no legal battle this time, but Universal […]

Labels roll out new policies in response to coronavirus

Major labels are beginning to place restrictions on international travel for their staff, in the face of the spreading coronavirus outbreak. Billboard reported on a Universal Music Group internal memo explaining that “for the health and well-being of our staff, and in order to be a responsible member of the global community seeking to stop the spread […]

Universal Music expands leadership team for India and South Asia

Universal Music Group has been very active in India in recent times, from its VYRL Originals non-film-music label (which we wrote about in November 2019) to its launch of Mass Appeal India in partnership with rapper Nas, and that label’s signing of Indian star Divine. Now UMG is preparing for its next push with an expansion of its […]

$500m-funded Saban Music Group inks Universal partnership

In July 2019, we reported on the latest new label with grand ambitions for the music industry. In the case of Saban Music Group, those ambitions were backed by $500m of capital, thanks to founder Haim Saban, whose TV firm Saban Entertainment (and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) made him a billionaire. The new label would focus […]

Music Ally Report 426: Trends of 2019

This year we’ve picked 42 (also the answer to life, the universe and everything as fans of Douglas Adams will know) of the trends and moments we found most significant in 2019. What are they? *takes deep breath* industry growth; the European Copyright Directive and Music Modernization Act; Spotify’s two-sided marketplace; Apple Music’s bundled future; […]

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band gets immersive with Dolby

Bad news if you want to hear the all-new remixed version of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the flesh: tickets to the “immersive experience” in the band’s native Liverpool are already sold out. The good news, however, is that the remix – in the Dolby Atmos format – is also being made available […]

UMG, EMI Trust and The eXceL Project back Secret Studio

As part of a collaboration between UMG, the EMI Trust and youth-community charity The eXceL Project, the three-day education programme Secret Studio has resulted in the release of two new original tracks. The eXceL Project’s (XLP) community leaders picked six individuals, aged between 16 and 20, from different backgrounds across London to harness their creativity […]

Capitol Gains: Capitol Records talks innovation, startups and music

In September, Music Ally spoke to three of Warner Music Group’s senior innovation and business-development execs, about how they work with startups and innovative technologies. That month, we also interviewed some music/tech startups, who gave some blunt, honest feedback on the challenges they have faced working with major labels in general. It’s a conversation that’s […]

Impala to oppose Tencent investment in Universal Music Group

Independent-music body Impala has come out against plans for Chinese technology company Tencent to buy a 10% stake in Universal Music Group, with an option to buy a further 10%. “Even at a low level of shareholding, we believe the risk of harm for consumers and competitors from such a transaction would be a concern […]

Universal Music launches streaming/social data app for artists

Universal Music Artists (UMA) is a new Android and iOS app for artists signed to Universal Music Group (and their managers) where they can access data and insights on their music plays on the major international DSPs – Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and YouTube are named in the announcement. However, it will also pull in data […]

Tencent may seek partners for Universal Music investment

It’s been known for some time that Chinese tech firm Tencent is in talks to buy a 10% stake in Universal Music Group, with an option to acquire another 10% for up to a year afterwards. The deal is thought to value UMG at around €30bn, but now there’s been a development: Tencent may not […]

Capitol Royale roundup: empowerment, hacks and A&R’s evolution

On Saturday and Sunday (November 16-17), Capitol Music Group held its 2nd annual music and tech festival, Capitol Royale, at its Los Angeles headquarters. The theme for this year was ‘Music on the Move’, with workshops, hackathons, panels, and social events revolving around the ever-changing landscape of music and innovation. Kicking off on Friday was […]

Universal Music India’s VRYL project launches ‘Intezaar’ vide

Last week, Music Ally published a feature about the challenge that ‘non-film’ music is providing for Bollywood music in India – you can read it here if you missed it at the time. One of the projects exploring the potential for non-film music in India is Universal Music’s VYRL, which includes YouTube videos, streaming playlists and radio […]

UMG expands its college-marketing program into °1824 team

Universal Music Group is shaking up its ‘college lifestyle marketing program’ in the US, with a new team, and brand, called °1824. The label describes it as “a new marketing, content and experiences team powered by university students and young creatives from around the world”. It’s partly about finding new creative talent to place in […]

UMG’s schlager YouTube channel is doing 30m views a month

This story has been written to the soundtrack of gravelly-voiced German artist Ben Zucker, as well as the ‘Ultimatver Party Hitmix’ of his compatriot Sonia Liebing. It’s been quite the listen. Why? Because we’ve been investigating Universal Music’s ‘Ich Find Schlager Toll!’ YouTube channel (translation: ‘I think Schlager’s great!’). It’s one of the projects called […]

Streaming still paying off for UMG with 18.6% revenue growth

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: streaming is paying off rather well for the world’s largest music company. Universal Music’s revenues grew by 18.6% year-on-year for the first half of 2019, according to yesterday’s financial results from its parent company Vivendi. The company’s revenues were €3.26bn (around $3.68bn), with UMG’s recorded-music revenues growing […]

UMG and WMG execs talk startups and innovation at Sonar+D

Behind the music industry’s fiercely competitive public face hides a wider spirit of digital collaboration, according to Tuhin Roy, the executive who leads Universal Music’s efforts to support early-stage digital music companies. Roy was speaking at the Sónar+D conference in Barcelona alongside Warner Music’s Tiago Teixeira Correia, on a panel that gave a rare glimpse into the […]

Universal Music works with YouTube to remaster old music videos

Universal Music Group is following in the Spice Girls’ footsteps – not a sentence we ever expected to write in a Music Ally story – by remastering some classic videos for YouTube viewers in 2019. The Spice Girls, if you remember, started replacing their grainy old videos with spiffing new 4K-quality ones earlier this year. Now […]

Indies prepare for battle over Vivendi’s UMG sell-off plans

Vivendi appears to be paving the way for its planned sell-off of up to 50% of Universal Music Group to happen in 2020 rather than this year. That’s the gist, at least, of comments made by chairman Yannick Bolloré in an interview with Bloomberg (and reported on by Billboard) maintaining that the plans are proceeding smoothly. […]

Universal Music inks strategic deal with AI startup Super Hi-Fi

Music Ally first wrote about startup Super Hi-Fi in September 2018, when it announced a partnership with The Associated Press “to transform AP’s daily global news content into audio-based stories that can be seamlessly embedded into any digital music service partner”. The company’s focus is on “the space between the songs” on streaming services, with technology […]

TheFatRat on music and esports: ‘The potential is growing every year’

TheFatRat is a German dance artist and producer (real name Christian Büttner) who’s also one of the early musicians to get involved in the world of esports – professional gaming. In November 2018, he was announced as the first artist to be signed to Enter Records, the label joint-venture founded by Universal Music and esports organisation ESL. Büttner […]

Afrobeats star Tiwa Savage signs global deal with UMG

Universal Music wants to build its business in Africa: that’s been clear for some time now. In July 2018 it announced an expansion in French-speaking Africa with a brief to sign up emerging artists there, as well as launching Universal Music Nigeria as a hub for its expansion in western Africa. There too, signings were a key part of […]

Universal Music to develop original shows with podcast firm Wondery

Spotify and Pandora are throwing their energies into podcasts… but now so is the largest major label, Universal Music Group, via a partnership with podcast publisher Wondery. The pair have signed a deal to develop original podcasts based on the label’s catalogue, artists and labels. No specific shows have been announced yet, but when they […]

UMG licenses to uduX, a new Nigerian music streaming service

Yesterday we reported on music streaming service Boomplay raising $20m to expand across the African continent having signed a licensing deal with Warner Music Group last month. Now uduX, a new streaming service based in Nigeria, has signed its first licensing deal with a major label – Universal Music Group. (UMG was also the first […]

Chemical Brothers create ‘fastest remix’ for Formula 1

The Chemical Brothers have a new track out today, called ‘We’ve Got To Try’, which is marvellous. But the veteran dance duo also released another track this week called ‘WGTT15000BPM F1 NEEEUM MIX’ that’s more curious. Not least because it’s only three seconds long (and thus won’t be earning any royalties on streaming services, which […]

UMG boss on smart speakers: ‘Have the title in the chorus’

We reported yesterday on UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge’s keynote at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. Now more details are emerging about what he talked about, including non-mobile devices like smart speakers. Grainge talked about the challenges for labels of a voice-driven world. “Our experience is people can’t ask for a song when […]

Interscope EVP: streaming spurs creative exploration in hip-hop / R&B signings

The current popularity of hip-hop and R&B on music-streaming services is enabling labels to sign more artists, and thus take more creative risks, according to Nicole Wyskoarko, EVP of urban operations at Interscope Geffen A&M. “This is an amazing time to be in urban music. We’re able to really monetise urban music on a scale […]

Universal Music and Sony Music face new artist lawsuits

Two of the three major labels are facing new class-action lawsuits filed in New York, which focus on the right of artists under the so-called ’35-year law’ there. That’s the legislation that in theory allows artists to file Notices of Termination to regain ownership and control of their copyrights 35 years after that music was […]

Universal Music snaps up merch/branding firm Epic Rights

Universal Music Group’s Bravado division has been bolstered this week by the acquisition of merchandise and branding firm Epic Rights, for an undisclosed amount. Epic Rights works with the likes of Kiss, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, AC/DC and Britney Spears among other artists. CEO Dell Furano will be staying on as part of the acquisition. “I’m very proud […]

Deutsche Bank slaps €29bn valuation on Universal Music Group

Trebles all round at Universal Music Group: the company is worth €29bn ($33.2bn) now! Although perhaps hold off on the company-wide conga for now, since this is just an estimate from Deutsche Bank, as UMG’s parent company Vivendi prepares to sell off up to 50% of its music group. “With the hype around UMG stake […]

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