Executive vp, UMG
Executive vp business and legal affairs/general counsel, UMG
Executive vp digital strategy, UMG
$4.9 BILLION IN REVENUE DURING THE FIRST THREE QUARTERS: "In every way," says Universal Music Group executive vp Michele Anthony, "this was an extraordinary year." The company's labels accounted for six of the year's 10 most-streamed songs, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. recorded-music market and almost 50 percent of the now-dominant R&B/hip-hop market. As the recorded-music business continues its comeback, its leading company has never been more powerful compared with its rivals.
This corporate quartet helped Universal steer that recovery, running the operations (Muir), making the digital deals (Harleston, Nash) and expanding the related businesses (Anthony) that keep it in the lead. In 2017, Universal renewed its contract with Spotify and became the first major music company to sign a deal with Facebook. This year, it reaped the benefits: a 9.1 percent increase in constant currency revenue, to $4.94 billion, for the first three quarters of 2018.
Nash plays a leading role in UMG's efforts to encourage competition among digital services, and in the third quarter Universal got 57 percent of its recorded-music revenue from streaming, according to financial filings, more than its competitors. Harleston, Billboard's 2018 Lawyer of the Year, oversaw UMG's lobbying for the Music Modernization Act, which will boost its revenue from publishing and recorded music.
UMG's success gives it the resources to invest in talent not every label can afford. In November, UMG's Republic imprint signed Taylor Swift, the artist behind one of 2018's best-selling albums, reputation, and released LPs by the Nos. 1 and 2 top streaming artists of the year, Drake's Scorpion (through Cash Money Records) and Post Malone's beerbongs & bentleys. Interscope's reported $3 million-plus deal with Juice WRLD paid off with over 3.3 billion streams, and breakthrough acts Billie Eilish and Ella Mai are poised to become the label's next generation of stars.
Next up: a planned sale of up to half the company by corporate parent Vivendi. Says Harleston: "The pace of innovation and dealmaking is only growing."