For Universal Music Group (UMG), music is a universal language. A subsidiary of Vivendi, UMG is the world's largest recording company, boasting about 20 record labels, including Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Island Def Jam, Motown Records, UMG Nashville, and Verve Music Group. Its popular artists include Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Sting, and Kanye West, among many others. Its Universal Music Publishing Group is the world's largest music publishing house, with more than a million copyrights under control. UMG owns the largest catalog of recorded music in the world. Its catalog is marketed through Universal Music Enterprises in the US and Universal Strategic Marketing outside of the US.
In addition to its marketing divisions, Universal Music Enterprises and Universal Strategic Marketing, UMG also has a Global Digital Business, its new media and technologies division, and Bravado, its merchandising division. UMG, along with Sony Music Entertainment and Abu Dhabi Media Company, created and own stakes in music video and entertainment platform VEVO.
Mergers and Acquisitions
UMG made a bold move in 2012 by acquiring then rival EMI Group's recorded music division from Citigroup for $1.9 billion. The transaction increases the combined company's market share and gives it expanded presence in such countries as the US, Germany, and Japan, all leading international music markets. It also adds popular artists and bands such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Coldplay, and the Beach Boys to UMG's roster. The EMI Recorded Music acquisition was part of a broader deal in which EMI Group also sold its smaller but more lucrative EMI Music Publishing division to Sony for $2.2 billion.
UMG operates in an industry that is shrinking as a result of piracy, declining CD sales, and the plethora of online channels that artists can use to distribute and promote their music today. As a result, major record labels -- including French-owned UMG, Japanese-owned Sony Music Entertainment, and US-owned Warner Music Group -- are struggling to remain profitable and don't have nearly the amount of power to dictate what music gets recorded and distributed as they had in the past.
Technology and the Internet have changed the music industry landscape, so it's not that surprising that UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge wants to make artists' music available to a wider digital audience. Although he has supported anti-Internet piracy laws in order to fight the illegal downloading of music, the company does engage in legal digital distribution of UMG music through partnerships with Apple's iTunes and other US digital download retailers. UMG sells its music catalog online in the unrestricted MP3 format (without digital rights management software) through the websites of third-party retailers.
UMG remains as one of the last entertainment assets still owned by French conglomerate Vivendi after its $34 billion acquisition of Seagram and its media businesses in 2000. The deal soured quickly after the company posted record losses leading to the ouster of Jean-Marie Messier in 2002 and eventually the sale of Vivendi UNIVERSAL Entertainment to General Electric (GE) in 2004. (Vivendi UNIVERSAL Entertainment eventually became NBCUniversal; GE sold 51% of NBCUniversal to cable giant Comcast in 2011.) – less