Universal Music Group and parent company Vivendi, owner of the world's largest record label as well as the Canal+ Group, have announced first-quarter earnings results, and they write a familiar story. Revenues are up for digital sales and way up from streaming and subscriptions, while physical revenues continue to inexorably fade.
Vivendi itself put €1 billion on the books from the sale of its remaining 5.7 percent stake in video game company Activision Blizzard, with overall revenues at €2.491 billion. Adjusted earnings were €968 million, up 8.3 percent year-over-year.
Recording revenues generally for the world's largest label were up slightly, €1.119 billion or six-tenths of a percent at constant currency (which adjusts for currency fluctuations, important for international conglomerates like Vivendi). Adjusted earnings before interest and income taxes were down 4 percent.
Universal Music passed the 'half' milestone -- wherein streaming and subscription revenue made up the majority of digital revenues in its earnings report for last year, and that trend continued. The decline of sales overall is being offset by streaming and subscriptions, which earned €307 million for the company in the quarter and accounted for 59.7 percent of overall digital revenues. Physical sales declined 16.6 percent. Publishing earned €188 million, up 0.3 percent. Earnings from merchandise (and "other") fell 6.9 percent after seeing a full-year increase of 3.5 percent.
The company's top five bestselling artists were Justin Bieber, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Japanese pop star Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi and The 1975. The company pointed to upcoming releases from Lady Gaga, Nick Jonas, Massive Attack and Sean Mendes, among others, as potential bellwethers for the year.
North America was Universal Music's largest market, accounting for 43 percent of revenues, with Europe accounting for 37 percent, Asia 13 percent (up from 11 percent year-over-year) and "rest of the world" at 7 percent (down 2 percent year-over-year).