Warner Music Group’s reliance on streaming revenue reaches a tipping point

warner music group streaming
Garry Knight/Flickr
Musicians decrying streaming have become a dime a dozen — which is more than they make per stream in many cases — but the format is paying off nicely for at least one major label. Warner Music Group announced today that its recorded music business’ biggest source of revenue during the fiscal quarter ending March 31 was streaming.

The company’s total revenue grew by 10 percent during the three-month period, and streaming’s impact could be seen in a digital revenue increase of 21.2 percent. Growth on the digital revenue side helped offset the declines for the company on the physical revenue side. Although it’s not a shock, given how streaming has spiked in recent years, it’s interesting to see the format propel WMG to a new milestone.

“We are now the first major music company to report that streaming is the largest source of revenue in our recorded music business, surpassing our revenue from physical formats,” said CEO Stephen Cooper, in a press release. “And this new milestone comes only four quarters after our streaming revenue first topped our download revenue.”

Cooper specifically highlighted the “industry’s digital transformation,” which is evidently smothering physical formats. Interestingly, streaming’s growth comes in spite of the perception of many Americans that the services are “too expensive.” WMG’s numbers indicate that consumers as a whole are still willing to pay to stream music — apparently more so than any other medium.

The music company’s artists, of course, played a huge part in its successful quarter, and Cooper mentioned the role of “outstanding music from [WMG’s] artists and songwriters.” Artists like Ed Sheeran (Spotify’s superstar), Coldplay (likely with a Super Bowl halftime show boost), Twenty One Pilots, Charlie Puth, and Gesu No Kiwami Otome were especially notable sellers.

Clearly, many consumers don’t agree with Adele’s December assessment of streaming as a “disposable” medium.


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