paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies

31. Universal Music Group

Music, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #17

Digital Content Revenue

$1,385,228,400 (26% of total)

Digital Snapshot

A familiar story: digital music sales growth of 9.6 percent couldn’t offset a 15.9 percent dip in physical sales last year. Digital tracks, cheaper than plastic, made up just a third of UMG’s recorded music sales – but, spurred by ongoing physical decline and the emergence of new subscription digital music income, the label and its peers are now on the cusp of the tipping point. UMG label acts include Maroon 5, Rihanna and The Killers.

Key Move

All change and a big shake-up in the music business. Universal owner Vivendi successfully bid £1.2 billion for EMI Music, condensing four majors in to just three. But the buy-up must clear regulatory hurdles, and the corporation had to shed €500 million in “non-core assets” (notably, three percent of its Activision-Blizzard stake) to finance the deal. That’s a significant makeover – is EMI, whose biggest acts include Coldplay and Kylie Minogue, worth it?

Our Methodology

Vivendi’s 2011 annual report disclosed this figure in digital music sales.
Source: Vivendi 2011 annual report, p 148

— RA