(Bloomberg) -- Universal Music Group has doubled the money it’s put into artists and songwriters in just two years as a competitive music market sends talent costs soaring.
UMG said advances for artists and repertoire owners in 2020 were 1.86 billion euros ($2.2 billion), up from 1.05 billion euros in 2018. The music major, valued at 35 billion euros, published the figures Tuesday in a prospectus for its listing expected next week in Amsterdam.
The splurge on talent -- for artists like Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee and India’s Badshah -- speaks to the music industry’s dramatic recovery from the start of the century, when the internet killed the market for CDs. It also underscores the challenge faced by big music groups like UMG to keep spending under control as new competitors threaten their grip on fans.
Smaller, digital players are changing the business model, giving artists more choice on which label services to choose and more control over their career path.
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“The fundamental reason for this steep rise in costs is because artists have more options,” said Tim Ingham, founder of music industry news and analysis site Music Business Worldwide. “Artists can walk away from a label negotiation and still have a healthy career.”
UMG, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are still the biggest drivers of global hits and global stars, and signing with a major is still seen as a musician’s best bet for a worldwide breakthrough. Nine of the top ten selling musicians worldwide last year were UMG artists, according to industry body IFPI.
UMG also said it’s anticipating new competition from funds investing in artist back-catalogs. Investors, like Hipgnosis, have placed ever-richer bets on catalogs and stars have sold rights to income from their past work to replace touring income lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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UMG bought Bob Dylan’s entire discography last year for $300 million. The company also struck a deal for Aerosmith’s back catalog.
Advances for non-current artists -- much of which is for back-catalogs -- almost tripled in two years, according to UMG’s prospectus. The total value of its net content assets rose to 4.19 billion euros in 2020, almost double their 2018 value.
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