Record Labels

Record Labels Restrict Travel Amid Escalating Coronavirus Threat (Updating)

Coronavirus
Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Passengers coming from China wearing masks walk upon their arrival at Istanbul Airport, Turkey on Jan. 24, 2020.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, multinational record companies are putting the brakes on international travel.

In an internal memo to employees, Universal Music Group noted, “for the health and well-being of our staff, and in order to be a responsible member of the global community seeking to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we have put in place new policies and procedures, including: Suspended international business travel until further notice; postponed internal employee conferences requiring travel; and continued to comply with the guidance of local governments, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.”

Sony Music Group is prohibiting all travel unless it is deemed essential by a manager, according to a label source.

Similarly, Warner Music Group has stopped work travel to heavily affected areas, including Asia, Italy and Iran, says a source. Warner Music Group's publishing division, Warner Chappell, also postponed a conference slated for the end of March and WMG postponed marketing meetings scheduled for Madrid.

BMG parent company Bertelsmann has issued a ban on all business travel, effective immediately. The company said all events and larger gatherings should be reviewed and either postponed or replaced with online meetings. These restrictions, announced March 4, follow the postponement of a planned international meeting of 100 BMG managers set for early May, and a previous order for all Hong Kong and Beijing workers to work remotely.

Kobalt has suspended all employee travel internationally, restricted non-essential domestic travel and instituted a requirement for employees to conduct all job interviews via video conference. Next week, the company will be conducting a two-day remote-working trial for all staff to prepare for a potential worsening of the crisis.

Concord has suspended all international trips until further notice and “all non-essential domestic travel is strongly discouraged,” according to a human resources memo sent to staffers. “When possible, you should conduct necessary business meetings across locations via teleconference or Skype for Business.”

Of the companies surveyed by Billboard, Concord is the only one that has so far officially canceled its participation at South by Southwest -- an annual happy hour event at the LINE Hotel planned for March 18.

Companies are also adding options for employees to work from home. “Our IT team has developed procedures to meeting and working remotely so that our work supporting our artists, songwriters and partners continues uninterrupted,” UMG informed staffers.

WMG is asking that employees exhibiting symptoms stay home and get tested. Additionally, staffers vacationing in affected areas on their lists, including Asia, Italy and Iran, should work from home for two weeks upon their return.

Coronavirus