You hear a lot of grim music business news but recent performances of publicly traded music and music-related companies had enough positive aspects to overlook – at least for a few moments – the industry’s broad decline. Overall, falling physical recorded music revenues continued to be the force that droves changes in virtually all segments of the industry. A last quarter financial round-up:

Warner Music Group
Warner Music Group showed gains in its second fiscal quarter ended March 31. Total revenue declined only 1% and operating income - although slight - improved 60% over the prior year quarter. The modest results reflect positively on the company's long-term strategy as well as digital pricing and product innovations.
Digital is showing signs of life. After seven quarters with growth in the low single digits, digital total digital revenue was up 15% year-over-year and up 8.2% sequentially. Recorded music digital revenue was up 13.9% year-over-year and 9.9% sequentially. Domestic digital revenue was up 6.4% year-over-year and up 18.2% sequentially.

Universal Music Group
Universal Music Group's revenue dropped 13.4% to €889 million ($1.08 billion) (-12.6% at constant currency) and EBITA fell 38.2% to €68 million ($82 million) (-37.7% at constant currency). The company blamed the sizable fall on especially weak recorded music sales in Europe and Asia. UMG's digital revenue decreased 1.7%. UMG's first quarter revenue was lower than that of any quarter in 2008 or 2009. UMG reported a lower EBITA only once during that span - €68 million in Q3 2009.

Sony Music
With revenue of $5.62 billion, Sony Music Entertainment reported mixed, yet somewhat improved, results for its fiscal year ending March 31. Because of the acquisition of BMG Music in 2008, 2009 revenue was up 35%. The real year-over-year results, however, were a 4.8% drop in pro-forma revenue (and roughly flat on a constant currency basis) and a 71.3% increase in operating income. The pro-forma results take the acquisition into account to provide an accurate year-over-year comparison.

Live Nation
In its first quarter results, the first since its merger with Ticketmaster, Live Nation pointed to progress with its integration as well as its recent debt refinancing. From January 25, the day of the merger, through March 31, Live Nation recorded revenue of $723 million and a net loss of $112 million. The company said it is on track to realize $40 million in cost savings this year.

As a promoter, Live Nation generated total attendance of 6,835,000, a 2% drop from last year. Concert revenue fell 1.2% to $408 million. As a ticketing company, Live Nation sold 25.1 million tickets with a gross value of $1.5 billion in the quarter. Concerts represented 52% of the company's ticket sales while sports were 19%, arts & theater were 14% and family was 11%. Artist Nation, the company's artist management division, had revenue of $69.4 million. The Sponsorships division generated $21.2 million while E-commerce grossed $18.1 million.

The earnings call featured three items you should note: Some (unspecified) multi-rights deals are not going to pay off and Live Nation booked a $13.4 million allowance; TicketsNow revenue has fallen sharply since it created a wall between TicketsNow and; and Live Nation is seeking growth through pricing strategies, not investments in the secondary ticketing marketplace.

The Orchard
The Orchard showed improvements in the first quarter of 2010, growing revenue while posting a modest net loss. The digital distributor had revenues of approximately $17.8 million, up 16.2% from $15.3 million last year. Net loss improved to $447,000 from $1.06 million. Operating cash flow, a measure of the cash the company generated from its normal course of business, dropped 3% to $1.93 million.

Digital revenue was up 11.6% from the prior year period and was up 8% sequentially. International digital revenue was up 55% on the year.
The company's cost-cutting efforts were visible. Operating expenses decreased over $600,000, going from 27.5% of revenue from 37% last year.

Trans World
Entertainment retailer Trans World reported a net loss of $11.4 million in its first fiscal quarter ending May 1, 2010, a slight improvement over its $13.7 million loss in the same period last year. During the earnings call, CFO John Sullivan said Trans World closed 18 stores and acquired five value music stores during the most recent quarter.

Total sales dropped 18% to $156.5 million. Comp store sales declined 3% -- the company operated 23% fewer stores than in the first fiscal quarter of 2009.
Music sales were down 1% on a comp basis. One encouraging sign was a 20% increase in sales for the Top 50 titles. The music category accounted for 36% of the company's revenues, the same share as in the first fiscal quarter of 2009. The video game category fell 36% as the company stopped selling the product in over 200 stores.

Borders reported a greater operating loss and an improved net loss in the first fiscal quarter ending May 1, 2010. The net loss of $64.1 million was a fair improvement over the $86 million net loss in the previous year's first fiscal quarter. Revenue dropped to $547 million from $650 million. Comp store sales in the company's domestic segment were down 6.8%. The chain closed six stores during the quarter and finished with 680 locations, a sharp drop from 894 locations last year.

The entertainment retailer posted a net income of $1 million on revenue of $129 million in its first fiscal quarter ended April 30. Last year, net income was $1.7 million and revenue was $126 million. Comp store music revenue fell 4.8%, a big improvement from the 15.2% decline in the prior year period. Comp store video game sales were up 25.2% while movies rose 11.1%.

Apple reported revenue of $13.5 billion and net income of $3.07 billion in its second fiscal quarter ending March 27, 2010. The company sold 2.94 million Mac computers (up 33%), 8.75 million iPhones (up 131%) and 21 million iPods (down 1%).

Rhapsody finished Q1 2010 with 650,000 subscribers, a 3.7% decline from 675,000 at the end of Q4 2009 and down 18.8% from 800,000 in Q1 2009. On March 31, Rhapsody, a joint venture with MTV Networks, was spun off as an independent entity. Since RealNetworks now owns less than 50% of Rhapsody, details of the music service's performance may no longer be included in RealNetworks' financial reports.