Music Stocks Picked Up In 2004

Majors, digital distributors showed gains.

In a flat sales year, the music business regained modest ground on Wall Street.

The parent companies of the major labels all posted stock gains in 2004, continuing a slight upward trend that started last year.

The stock of Universal Music Group parent Vivendi Universal bettered its 2003 finish by 32%, ending 2004 at $32.07. The stock was driven by the conglomerate's ongoing efforts to streamline its businesses and slash debt.

Sony Corp. -- which completed its deal with Bertelsmann to merge Sony Music Entertainment with BMG -- saw its stock price rebound from a disappointing 2003, ending the year up 12% at $38.96.

EMI shares were up more than 66%, driven by improved operating results and ongoing speculation of an eventual merger with the now privately held Warner Music Group. EMI's stock ended the year at £263.85 ($495), after opening 2004 at £158.75 ($297.90).

As for Time Warner, owner of AOL and former parent of Warner Music Group, its shares ended the year up 8.1% at $19.45.

Broadcasters and live-entertainment specialists found themselves struggling. Clear Channel Communications ended 2004 down 28.4% at $33.49, amid a flat year for the overall U.S. touring business and flat performance in radio. Viacom, owner of MTV and Infinity Radio, dropped more than 16% to $37.08 in a year filled with management turbulence and concerns about growth. Univision Communications also slid in 2004, falling 26% year over year to $29.27.

The industry's biggest gainers were linked to new distribution opportunities.

Shares in Apple ended 2004 valued at $64.40, after opening the year at $21.37 -- a jump of more than 201%. Credit that to high-flying sales of the iPod player and download purchases through iTunes Music Store.

Among other digital music retailers, Napster showed the greatest percentage growth, rising more than 95% to $9.36. During the year, the company jettisoned its core CD-burning business to focus on digital music services and changed its name from Roxio to Napster. RealNetworks, which launched a download store to complement its Rhapsody subscription service, ended 2004 up 15.9% at $6.62. Shares in Loudeye Technologies -- which acquired European digital music service OD2 during 2004 -- closed the year up 5% at $2.05.

Two other companies cooled slightly. Yahoo!, which acquired MusicMatch for $160 million, closed down 16% at $37.68. slipped 15.8% to $44.29.

Some of the most actively traded stocks were in satellite radio. Sirius Satellite Radio bounced following deals late in the year with Howard Stern and Mel Karmazin. Its shares closed the year at $7.62 after starting at $3.16 in January—a gain of more than 141%. However, Wall Street continued to place its bets with rival XM Satellite Radio, which ended the year at $37.62 -- up 43% from the end of 2003.

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