UMG Central Europe's Frank Briegmann Touts Massive Streaming Numbers, Physical Gains at 'Universal Inside'

Stefan Hoederath/Getty Images
Lewis Capaldi and Frank Briegmann pose for a photo with an award for 1.5 Billion streams during Universal Inside 2019 organized by Universal Music Group at Verti Music Hall on Sept. 4, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. 

Universal Music Group executives, artists and retail partners gathered in Berlin on Wednesday for the label’s annual “Universal Inside” event. Frank Briegmann, UMG’s CEO and president for Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon, opened the festivities with a keynote focusing on “growth of the markets, the company and the potential for development.”

Briegmann reported that the German music market recorded an increase of 8.4 percent in the first half of 2019, behind the global mark of 9.7 percent. Streaming accounted for 56.4 percent of revenue, double of what CDs made with 28.2 percent.  "Streaming is still the number one driver of our growth,” he said at Berlin’s Verti Music Hall. “Once again, Universal Music artists dominated the streaming market with a total of 19.5 billion streams in the first eight months of 2019, an increase of 42 percent.”

Briegmann said he felt bullish on the industry’s future, citing major hits by Capital Bra, Henning May, Shawn Mendes and Billie Eilish. Provided the streaming sector continues to grow, it was feasible, according to a Goldman Sachs forecast, for the music industry to return to turnover levels close to record year’s 1999-2000 in the medium term — and perhaps surpass them in the long term. 

Universal Music and its artists were also successful in the physical segment, Briegmann noted. In just three months, sales of hard rock group Rammstein's current studio album reached about three quarters of the number the band’s last album sold over ten years. "Numerous successful campaigns have helped increase the catalogue sector by an average of 60 percent with our retail partners,” he noted. “This success is in marked contrast to the general trend in the market." 

Briegmann added that while the overall market for physical products has dropped by 11 percent, Universal was able to grow by 2.7 percent — against general trends and expectations. 

The success in the digital and physical market is reflected in the German charts, where Universal Music artists represent 50 percent of the singles and albums in the first eight months of the year.

"What this success shows is that, not only did we increase our charts-market share, we also contributed significantly to the strong overall growth of the market."  

Briegmann stressed that this performance was not the sole result of top-tier releases, but that an encouragingly large number of successful artists that are still below the superstar threshold and an equally encouraging number of promising newcomers and breakthrough artists were a huge factor in this success. Despite the dominance of streaming, one should not forget the multitude of alternative distribution channels, especially with regards to young talents, he said.

"Streaming is not a one-way street,” said Briegmann.

With regards to the diversity within the company and artist roster, Briegmann explained: "Streaming or physical, hip-hop, rock, pop or classical music — the bottom line is: Every area is relevant. If you believe that the music market is a solo show of a certain format, genre or trend, you're mistaken." 

On several occasions, Briegmann acknowledged the importance of streaming for the longterm growth of the music market. At the same time, he stressed the potential for development, explaining that, compared to its popularity in the total charts, pop music was still under-represented in streaming. The same could be said about German-speaking artists in streaming and the cluster of over-50 year-old within the subscriber group.

Briegmann emphasized that this was not a criticism of streaming or even the artists successful in the sector, but merely the identification of future areas of development. In the same breath, he mentioned connected cars, smart home, voice recognition and mobile entertainment as drivers of future growth. 

Briegmann expressed particular joy about the fact that the enormous power of his German entity was getting international attention. Apart from German acts, an increasing number of international artists such as Lewis Capaldi, Medzua and R3hab were now relying on his team's expertise. "We don't only build national and international careers for German stars, but also establish foreign stars in their home countries and beyond,” he said.

Briegmann expressed his satisfaction with the new EU copyright directive. “It was the necessary basis to effectively protect creators all over Europe and to enable them and their partners to monetize their work,” he said.


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