Thursday, August 4, 2011

60% Of Warners Artists Have 360 Deals

On a recent earnings call Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman revealed an interesting statistic; 60% of all their artists now have 360 deals with the labels. For those of you who've not been paying attention, a 360 deal is when the record label shares in all of your revenue streams from touring, merchandise, publishing, films, etc., and not just from music sales.

This is sort of like having your uncle who owns a clothing store be your manager. He may be able to get you into some nice stage clothes and even supply you with some dough for recording or tour support, but what does he know enough about the rest of the music business to help you at all? Same goes for signing a 360 deal with a major. They're not even that good with selling music these days, why trust them with everything else?

Bronfman also went on to say that a full 50% of their revenue came from areas of the business that did not exist in 2004, with the previously mentioned 360 deals a part of that.

Despite all the bluster, WMG still lost $46 million dollars last quarter, which they're touting as some sort of victory since they lost $55 million last year at this time. About the only good thing that I could see was that their total digital revenue grew 13% to $203 million, but that doesn't matter much when your bottom line is in the red.

The interesting thing about all of this is that WMG is in the running to buy at least some of the assets of EMI, who's price seems to be actually increasing by the day (supposedly there are at least 10 bidders, which is a total surprise). Warner's still has over $2 billion in debt, and even though new owner Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik has some mighty deep pockets, this isn't the part of the industry that I'd be speculating on, especially with such a high debt ceiling.

Another thing that's interesting is that Bronfman mentioned how "early traction is encouraging" when speaking about streaming service Spotify. That's all well and good, but believe me, no one's going to get rich on streaming music, especially after the first big license fee that a label takes in. It sounds like a good story to the stock analysts though, as major labels keep on dangling that carrot, and people still appear to be trying to catch it.

Bottom line - WMG lost a ton of money last quarter despite a big rise in digital music revenue. That one fact says it all.
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