Business

Universal Music Revenue Up 9% After Billion-Dollar Streaming Quarter

Justin Bieber
Rory Kramer

Justin Bieber

Universal Music Group's revenues grew to €1.81 billion ($2.2 billion) in the first quarter of 2021, up 9.4% at constant currency and perimeter, thanks to big-selling (and streaming) releases from Justin Bieber and King & Prince, as well as sustained sales from 2020 hitmakers The Weeknd, Ariana Grande and Pop Smoke.

Recorded music revenues jumped 10.8% to €1.483 billion ($1.8 billion) from €1.432 billion ($1.575 billion), thanks to sustained growth in subscription and streaming revenues -- which on their own increased 19.6% to just over €1 billion ($1.33 billion). Physical music had another solid set, raking in €213 million ($259.2 million), up 9.1% compared to Q1 of 2020 when it was €196 million ($215 million). Meanwhile, licensing and other revenue totaled €181 million ($220.3 million), a 5.2% decline from €191 million ($210.1 million).

As a percentage of recorded music revenue, that breaks out to 68% streaming and 5.5% downloads for total digital of 73.4% (versus last year when those percentages were 63.4% in streaming and 9.6% downloads for a total digital of 73%); 14.4% physical; and 12.2% licensing and other income streams. In the first quarter of 2020, the latter two percentages were 13.7% physical and 13.3% for licensing and other income streams.

And then you have downloads. A year ago the drop in sales amounted to a 26% decline, while this year the fading format tumbled 40.9% to just €81 million ($98.6 million). Licensing and other revenue, meanwhile, had a flat quarter, down 0.1% to €181 million ($218 million).

Music publishing revenues grew by 6.9% to €271 million ($325 million), also driven by increased subscription and streaming revenues.

Merchandising and other revenues again felt the effects of the pandemic, down 10% compared to the first quarter of 2020. The drop was attributed to a continued lack of touring activity, though the company said retail and direct-to-consumer sales have improved in recent months.

Parent company Vivendi’s Q1 earnings totaled €3.901 billion, an increase of 5% (at constant currency) on the same period the previous year. The French conglomerate pointed right at UMG for the group increase, as well as a 40% jump for Editis. All other major units, including Canal+ Group and Havas Group, were either flat or down.

Later this year, Vivendi plans on spinning off UMG with a listing on the Amsterdam Euronext exchange. When completed, Vivendi will keep only a 20% stake in UMG, the world’s largest music company, which it has owned since 2004. As part of that planned IPO, UMG's headquarters are now in Hilversum, Netherlands—they were previously located in Paris— and the company is now regrouping the subsidiaries in the various countries in which it operates, according to Vivendi’s financials.

Finally, in apparent preparation for when UMG becomes a stand-alone company, Vivendi said UMG has lined up a five-year, €3 billion financing line—probably a revolving credit facility—that is expected to be a signed deal by the end of this month.

(This story uses an exchange rate of one euro to 1.217 dollars for the first quarter of 2021 and one euro to 1.1 dollars for the first quarter of 2020.)