Universal Music Group (US)

Universal Music Group is the world's biggest music company, with a leading 29% share of the global recorded music market in 2016 (down from over 34% two years earlier). Top selling releases of 2016 were Drake's Views (also the overall top-selling album of the year), Justin Bieber's Purpose (actually released in 2015), and new albums from Rihanna, Ariana Grande and The Rolling Stones. Universal also manages a huge catalogue of other current or past acts, including Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, Eminem, Kanye West and The Beatles. Its labels include Motown, Polydor, Island, Def Jam, Deutsche Grammophon and Blue Note as well as Virgin and Capitol. Originally formed from the 1998 merger of European giant Polygram with US-based MCA/Universal, Universal Music has continued to expand as the industry has shrunk, most recently through the acquisition of most of former rival EMI's recorded music division in 2012. In publishing, its UMPG is the global #2. Another key division is Universal Music Group & Brands, an inhouse promotional marketing agency organising branding partnerships with advertiser clients. Separate division Bravado claims to be the industry's only full service music merchandise company, and in 2017 the group relaunched the Polygram label for film and TV content development. Newly knighted in 2016, Sir Lucian Grainge is group CEO. Despite multiple acquisitions and other moves to reinforce Universal's global position, revenues fell steadily in the early 2010s before finally turning around in 2015, partly as a result of currency fluctuations, but also the surge in revenues from digital streaming. Revenues for 2016 were E5.3bn (approx $5.8bn). The group has been owned since 2000 by French media group Vivendi, which acquired the business from drinks group Seagram. Adbrands no longer profiles this company but subscribers may access account assignments and contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services. 

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Capsule checked 29th March 2017

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jul 2016: Universal Music Group moved its £10m UK media account from Mediacom, which has handled the business for more than 30 years. The winner was Arena Media, a unit of Havas, and the transfer is said to have resulted from the direct intervention of Vincent Bollore, chairman of Universal's parent Vivendi as well as owner of the Havas group.

Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Jan 2015: The music industry also suffered another slump in performance as a result of the rise in popularity of streaming services over downloads and physical product. In the US, total album sales slumped by 11.2% to 257m units, and track sales by 12.5% to 1.1bn. That was offset by a 54% jump in on-demand streaming to 164bn songs, an impressive total but at much lower prices. Revenues aren't available yet, but were down by almost 5% at the half-year mark. Taylor Swift's 1989 (Big Machine/Universal Music) was the top-seller in the US with almost 3.7m units, ahead of the Frozen soundtrack (Walt Disney/Universal Music) with 3.5m. In the UK, the world's third biggest music market after the US and Japan, combined retail sales slipped 1.6% to £1.03bn. For the first time since the launch of digital music, album downloads declined year-on-year to 30m units (from 32.6m in 2013). There was sharp rise in streaming subscriptions, sales of which jumped by almost two-thirds, but their combined value to the industry was just £175m, considerably less than the value of lost downloads. That figure doesn't take into account the number of people who shifted their music consumption to ad-supported free streams. Ed Sheeran's x (Warner Music) was the best-selling album in the UK with 1.7m copies sold. Around a third of those purchases were made in just the last two weeks of the year. Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour (Capitol/Universal Music) was the #2 album with 1.2m copies in the UK.

Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Jan 2015: Havas established closer ties with Vivendi through the formation of the Global Music Data Alliance, a partnership with the French media group's Universal Music subsidiary. Under the new arrangement, Havas's data analytics division will take charge of all Universal Music's customer data, encompassing social media and streaming as well as all music, merchandising and ticket purchases. It will match this with its own proprietary behavioural data to generate additional cross-platform marketing opportunities. Few observers were surprised by the development, given the Bolloré family's influence over both companies. Vincent Bolloré is executive chairman and the biggest individual shareholder in Vivendi, and the Bolloré Group is also the controlling shareholder in Havas, which is led by Vincent's son Yannick Bolloré.  

Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Mar 2014: Despite a steep rise in revenues from streaming, the global music industry continued to shrink in 2013, with total music sales slipping almost 4% to $15.0bn, according to figures from industry body IFPI. A key factor in the decline was a dramatic 17% slump in the world's second biggest market, Japan, where streaming services such as Spotify have yet to gain a significant following. Excluding Japan, the global market was more or less flat, while North America and Europe experienced modest growth of 0.5% and 0.6% respectively, despite the continuing decline in physical product as well as the first decline in digital downloads. That was because of a 51% jump in revenues from streaming and subscription services to over $1bn globally. One Direction's Midnight Memories (from Sony Music) was the top selling album globally, selling 4m units, followed by Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP2 (3.8m, from Universal Music) and Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience (3.6m units, also Sony). Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke (Universal) was the undisputed top-selling single, with 14.8m units.

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