Aided by an acquisition and gains in streaming services, Warner Music Group revenues topped $3 billion for the first time in five years. For the year ended Sept. 30, WMG’s revenue increased 5.2 percent to $3.02 billion on a constant currency basis. Operating income was $19 million, down from $75 million the prior year. WMG’s net loss grew to $303 million from $194 million.
WMG last exceeded $3 billion in revenue in 2009, when it posted $3.2 billion. Revenue fell to $2.98 billion the following year.
A standout disclosure in the report was an increase of $215 million in streaming revenues in the fiscal year. Recorded music streaming revenue grew $200 million in total and $150 million excluding the impact of the Parlophone Label Group acquisition. The publishing division experienced a $15 million increase in revenue from streaming services. (WMG disclosed only the annual increase, not the actual streaming revenues generated.) Also notable is the increasing sizes of streaming gains. In the prior fiscal year, gains in streaming revenue were $75 million in recorded music and $6 million in publishing revenue.
Total digital revenue grew 11 percent on a constant currency basis and accounted for about 40 percent of WMG’s total revenue, up from 38 percent the prior fiscal year.
WMG’s bottom line appeared better after some adjustments are taken into consideration. Adjusted net loss was $184 million, up from $118 million the prior year. WMG adjusted its financials to exclude the impact of items related to the PLG acquisition: a $50 million restructuring charge and $59 million of professional fees and integration costs. WMG expects all material integration costs to be incurred by the end of its current fiscal year.
Total recorded music revenue grew 6 percent in the fiscal year. Digital revenue grew 11 percent to $1.1 billion while physical revenue declined 9 percent to $822 million. U.S. recorded music revenue fell 3 percent to $948 million while international revenue increased 11 percent to $1.58 billion.
The PLG acquisition masked a different trend in recorded music sales. Excluding PLG revenues of $322 million, WMG’s recorded music revenues declined $107 million — which would have resulted in a 5.6-percent decline rather than the actual 6-percent increase. In other words, WMG’s annual financials would have showed a much different outcome without the acquisition.
Revenue from artist services and expanded rights — related to multi-rights artist contracts — grew 23 percent to $332 million. Licensing revenue grew 21 percent to $269 million. The rapid growth of artist services and expanded rights is notable. The category now represents 13 percent of WMG’s recorded music. WMG attributed the gains to “strong concert promotion revenue in Europe due to the timing of tours.”
Total music publishing revenue grew 3 percent to $517 million. Publishing revenue grew 3 percent in both the U.S. and international. WMG attributes the gains to increases in performance royalties, synchronization revenue and digital revenue that more than offset a decline in mechanical royalties.