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Warner Music’s Outgoing CEO Steve Cooper Sees ‘New Golden Age of Music’ Ahead

WMG's newest CEO, YouTube veteran Robert Kyncl, joins the company on Jan. 1

Warner Music Group’s double-digit fourth quarter revenue growth served as the capstone in chief executive Stephen Cooper‘s long-term growth strategy, and is a signal more growth to come, Cooper said on Tuesday.

YouTube’s former chief business officer, Robert Kyncl, will replace Cooper as WMG’s new CEO on Jan. 1, though Kyncl will share the top duties with Cooper for his first month.

Cooper’s 12-year-tenure at WMG has been marked by an early embrace of digital streaming, major expansion into markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and taking the company public roughly two-and-a-half years ago, among other things.

“I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made over the past 10 years,” Cooper said on a call with analysts Tuesday. “As I look out on the next 10 years, I believe we’re at the doorstep of a new golden age of music. As the ecosystem becomes more complex and exciting new business models emerge, our role as the connective tissue between artists and fans will only become more prominent and important.”

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WMG reported quarterly revenues rose 16% at constant currency to $1.5 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, with solid growth across all business lines, including a 39% and a 48% jump in digital and performance revenues respectively. Investors welcomed the news, pushing Warner’s stock up 15.2% to $31.08 as of 10:30 a.m. in New York.

Cooper said he sees the company’s future momentum coming from continued growth in the number and price of streaming subscriptions, penetrating deeper into new emerging markets and investing more in new digital technologies.

WMG now has partnerships with more than 200 streaming services and operates in 70 countries around the world. While executives decline to put a number on how much WMG may make from recent subscription price hikes by Apple Music and Deezer, they said they expect it to result in other streaming companies raising prices.

“I’ve consistently told you that streaming revenue would continue to have significant runway, that we would have price increases and ongoing subscriber growth, and that emerging platforms would continue to expand,” Cooper said. “We’re now seeing all these come to fruition.”

WMG’s annualized revenue from emerging streaming platforms, include deals like the recent one reached with Meta, topped $370 million this quarter, Cooper said.

The fourth quarter saw big releases Lizzo, whose album Special was her first to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart, as well strong carry-over sucess from some of WMG’s superstars like Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Silk Sonic.

The company’s pipeline remains strong, Cooper said, with first quarter releases expected from Paramore, Aya Nakamura, Cardi B, Roddy Ricch and others.

However, Cooper said he expects the outsized monetary impact of hit singles and albums to continue to decrease in the coming years as the company works with talent in more geographic markets and diversifies its revenue streams.

“As we’ve broadened and deepened our artist roster and prioritized a global approach to domestic music, our revenue composition has evolved,” Cooper said.  “A decade ago, our top 5 artists generated over 15% of our recorded music physical and digital revenue.  In 2022, they generated just over 5%.”

One new geographic market where Cooper said WMG plans to expand is in Eastern Europe. In recent months, WMG invested in the Polish concert and festival promoter BIG Idea, the Serbian record company Mascom Records, and participated in launching OUT OF ORDER, a new label for Eastern European artists.