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Lucian Grainge Takes ‘A Look Back and a Look Ahead’ in End-of-Year Memo to Staff

Another year, another holiday greeting from the most powerful music executive in the world, Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group.

Another year, another holiday greeting from the most powerful music executive in the world, Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group.

Grainge again touts the music conglomerate’s artist development strengths. (His 2014 note: “That unfailing commitment to artist development on a global basis has always been what sets us apart — not merely from other major labels and publishers, but from every other player in the music world.” This year’s: “I’m counting on all of you to continue to do what we do better than anyone else on the planet:  break new artists.”)


Grainge bangs the gong for UMG’s successful entry into the film business — Warner Music Group is taking a similar tack — with the critically lauded biopic Amy and well-received Straight Outta Compton.

The note also stresses a push for greater synergy between UMG’s sister companies within Vivendi — partnerships like the ones Grainge mentions, “including Marriott, HP and American Airlines,” are much easier to score with the imprimatur of a massive, pan-industry corporate behemoth. (That’s Vivendi, not UMG.)

There’s also no mention of freemium or the banishment thereof — likely because the writing is on the wall. Happy holidays.


Dear Colleagues:

As we’re all busy preparing for the holidays, I want to take a moment to share my thoughts about the year now ending, as well as what I see on the horizon for 2016. This year-end note is a little longer than usual, but there’s much to talk about!

Before that, though, I want to thank you.

Thank you for making UMG the most creatively and commercially successful music company in the history of our industry. And thank you — each and every one of you — for your dedication in bringing our artists’ music to fans everywhere. Despite a dizzying number of cultures and languages, we are united across more than 60 countries in our love of music and our commitment to our artists. You are, individually and collectively, what makes UMG unlike any other company in the world.

Now, a look back and a look ahead:

First, New Artists: In 2015, we once again demonstrated that we have the best team in the industry for breaking new artists. We achieved record-setting leadership in virtually every major music market in the world, including the US, UK, Germany and France, and we were responsible for the industry’s biggest global breakthrough artist — The Weeknd. What we have been consistently able to achieve is the result of never forgetting that artist development is the lifeblood of our industry. The work we do in developing artists is essential, not only for us, but for every participant in the music ecosystem — from the live business to radio to digital platforms.   When it comes to new artists, we are the single largest investor — in terms of both financial efforts and sweat equity. Period. And that will also be true in 2016. I’m counting on all of you to continue to do what we do better than anyone else on the planet: break new artists.

Second, Redefining the Role of a Music Company: In 2015, we demonstrated that, beyond our undisputed strengths in recorded music and music publishing, we have the capability and talent to be a meaningful player in film, in branding and in short-form video. Working with companies within our Vivendi family and others, in 2016 we’ll continue to expand and transform the very nature of the role a music company can play in an ever-changing world:  

·         This past year we achieved critical and commercial success with films such as Amy. Next year, we’ll have a number of film projects that will extend our artists’ brands and our extraordinary catalog in ways we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago.

·         In 2015, UMG also struck global partnerships with a number of companies, including Marriott, HP and American Airlines, to name a few. By enabling our artists to participate in the marketing campaigns of some of the most significant brands in the world, we accelerate artist development. Next year, we’ll continue to grow our brand partnerships.   We’ll match that effort with our extensive work in data. With the information we obtain, we not only position ourselves to offer brands additional value, we also give our artists a vast array of tools to advance their careers and create non-traditional avenues to achieve additional commercial success.

·         UMG’s video content is the most-consumed music-based entertainment in the world — 2015 was no exception. And I believe that, perhaps more than anything, 2016 will be a year in which we will seize even greater opportunities created by the explosive growth of mobile short-form video. That means we’ll be increasing our in-house audiovisual production capabilities — already a significant area of focus over the last two years — while also deepening and widening our relationships with technology platforms. Next year we’ll create even more compelling content and innovative business models to monetize all the ways music fans access our artists’ video content.

Finally, New Platforms: We are the leaders in helping to expand the ecosystem of entrepreneurs and technology platforms that seek to create value around music. Our objective here has been, and will continue to be three-fold. That is, we’ll be doing deals that: are beneficial to our artists; spur competition; and promote the long-term health of our industry. Going forward we’ll continue to operate under the simple truth that always bears repeating: we can only be successful if our artists are.

So that’s what I’m thinking about for next year — investing in new areas while evolving our core businesses. I know it’s a lot, but in 2015 we showed yet again that we have the ability to execute with thoughtful risk-taking, skill and creativity. And supporting that ability, we have the strong backing of Vincent Bolloré and the Vivendi Management Board who are committed to helping us achieve all of our goals including the continued investment in new talent. For that I am very grateful.

What’s most exciting is that we’ll be discovering new artists and developing established ones in ways never seen before. Our work will have a profound effect on cultures and societies, affecting millions of people around the world. That’s what we do. We shape culture with music. It’s something I’m very proud to have made my life’s work, and I’m proud to be doing it with you.

I hope you enjoy your much-deserved time off. I wish you and your loved ones a healthy and happy holiday.