Are Bowie and Prince Hurting Universal’s Market Share?

In a recent meeting to discuss Universal Music Group’s (UMG) financial fortunes with parent company Vivendi, a market analyst was pressing for information on why UMG had lost market share for the last five quarters.

Speaking to Vivendi on November 9, analyst Julien Roch from Barclays Capital suggested that UMG appeared to have lost global market share points in each of its past five quarters.

He asked the French media empire’s top bosses to explain UMG’s “fifth quarter of under-performance in a row”.

Obviously, one reason for UMG ceding ground to its competitors in this period is its release slate: the business has not released albums from many of its big hitting artists in 2016 – including Taylor Swift, Sam Smith and Katy Perry.

In addition, albums from the likes of Kanye West, Frank Ocean and Rihanna have been disrupted by exclusive streaming agreements.

However, Roch pushed Vivendi on the point – noting that UMG’s market share slip “has to be [down] to more than the release schedule”.

One very important reason for the change in market share was the sales increases due to the deaths of David Bowie and Prince.

Obviously, it’s not the deaths of Bowie and Prince per se that Philippe is referring to, but rather the jump in sales of both artists’ catalogues triggered by their passing.

The recorded music catalogue of both artists is managed by Warner Music Group.

The Bowie EMI catalogue formed part of Parlophone Label Group, which was acquired by WMG subsequent to UMG’s historic buyout of EMI in 2012.

The point about Bowie and Prince’s deaths was backed up by Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine.

“Market share doesn’t always show the whole picture,” he commented. “Quality of the revenue is just as important.

Clearly there’s more to it than just that. Music Business World has more information here.

Larry Lootsteen

Music is life and I love to write about all things music. Independent music blogger. Writer in general. I am a big fan of alternative and indie music but there's no genre I haven't found something to like.

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