August 20, 2005

Universal Music Group Gets A PhoneOf Its Own

Billboard: Universal Music Group has partnered with white label mobile phone service provider SingleTouch Interactive to market a music-focused mobile phone, called MoveU will have ringtones and other music-related mobile content goodies.
The MoveU phone will ship with selected ringtones, but users will have the option to pay an additional monthly fee -- as yet undetermined -- for unlimited access to master and polyphonic ringtones. The phone will be sold later this year for $99.95 at Wal-Mart and other retail locations.
Additionally, SingleTouch will create phones branded for individual UMG artists, sold through each artist's website, with preloaded content specific to that person. SingleTouch already has sold 7,000 units of a Hilary Duff-branded phone and is in the process of rolling out a Barbie-branded model.
NYTimes: [Even though the service only has ringtones for now] it is expected to sell entire songs eventually- once the phones are able to store and process the information, and the DRM issues are resolved.
The artist-specific phones might have some chance of success, but a general service focused on one music label is pretty lame.

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August 09, 2005

Content-Based MVNO Amp's Gets $67 Million Funding, Including Universal Music

Amp'd Mobile, the much-hyped though yet-to-be-launched MVNO (virtual mobile operator), has received $67 million in venture funding, including funding Universal Music Group, Highland Capital Partners, Columbia Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and some undisclosed investors.
Amp'd, which will rent network space from rival Verizon Wireless, will now have music on its service from Univeral. The company, announced earlier this year, has been founded by ex-Boost Mobile team, and has focused heavily on content, especially related to extreme sports and music.
CEO Peter Adderton, which describes Amp'd as a mobile media service rather than a phone service, said he is discussing music content deals with multiple record labels.
Other rivals include the Virgin Mobile USA, and Sprint, which will also own Boost Mobile when it buys Nextel.

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August 02, 2005

Universal Still On Top

Reuters: Today, the IFPI published its 12th annual Recording Industry in Numbers - which many regard as one of the most complete and authoritative sources of music industry statistics in the world...Universal Music remained the world's biggest recording company in 2004 with a 25.5 percent share of the annual $33.6 billion global recorded music market...Overall, the industry seems to be chasing after older listeners after losing younger fans to file-sharing and illegal downloading..."About 55 percent of the music sold last year was bought by people older than 30 compared with 48 percent in 1999." The article also reports that, "Americans are buying more country music and less pop than they did five years ago, while British fans are buying more rock and rap and less dance music..."

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June 19, 2005

Universal Ties Up With BBC

Guardian: Universal Music has signed a deal with the BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of BBC) that will give the company access to the largest radio and TV archive of its kind in the world. The two hope to earn several million pounds from the five-year deal.
BBC Worldwide is in talks with the other music majors about similar deals involving their artists. Anything ever recorded or filmed by the BBC by Universal artists since the 1920s to the present day could be sold on CD or DVD. The TV archives go back to the 1930s and include jazz and classical compositions.

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May 20, 2005

Vivendi Universal Reports Solid Q1 Earnings

Businesswire: Vivendi Universal, the French media group, beat analysts' forecasts of first-quarter operating profit yesterday stating that its first-quarter profit tripled - boosted by gains at its phone services units and as music and video-games returned to profitability following massive job cuts last year. Net income rose to 502 million euros ($634 million or 44 cents a share) from 166 million euros (14 cents a share) a year earlier and all 5 of Vivendi's units were profitable in the quarter...

Meanwhile, Universal Music Group has claimed a 4% revenue contribution from digital download sales and continues to outperform the market, enjoying a healthy 25% global market share. Revenues were no doubt lifted by hits from artists like Mariah Carey, 50 Cent and Scissor Sisters - all helping to lift earnings from operations to 36 million euros (45.5 million) from a shortfall of 4 million euros (5.1 million) a year earlier.

The encouraging results underscore a dramatic turnaround at Paris-based Vivendi, which came close to collapse three years ago. Since then, Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou has sold off businesses to lower debt and lift earnings...

--Music Sales Buoy Vivendi Net in Quarter
--Vivendi First-Quarter Profit Triples on Music, Phones

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April 27, 2005

Digital Music Revs 4 Percent of Total UMG Sales

Earnings: That's according to the Q1 2005 earnings release for Universal Music Group's parent...Sales of digitized music, including downloads and ringtones "showed strong growth and represented 4% of total revenues", up from 2 percent in 2004. That's about $54 million for the quarter...
Update: WSJ: In a few years, it could represent 20% of the company's revenue, [Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Levy] predicts.
Also, on new UMG policy to charge sites/portals for playing music videos: While Levy touts the new policy as a potential gold mine, the deals with AOL, Yahoo and MSN combined will probably generate less than $10 million in extra revenue this year, or barely 0.2% of Universal's likely total revenue.

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April 26, 2005

Universal Music Group Sued For Racketeering

Universal_2yahoo: Two independent music promoters (National Music Marketing of Los Angeles and Majestic Promotions of Atlanta) are suing Universal Music Group for $100 million, claiming the record company forced them to submit false or doctored invoices so Universal could recoup promotional costs from some of its artists...The move comes in the wake of an investigation into record companies paying US radio stations to play their songs. As a result of the alleged fraud, Universal was able to bill promotional costs to artists whom the promoters never represented. The suit - which was filed after National and Majestic were fired and possibly blackballed to radio stations - accuses UMG of racketeering, fraud, trade libel and breach of contract.

-- Universal Label Defrauded Stars

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April 20, 2005

China Firm R2G Teams Up With Universal To Fight Piracy

Universal_1Yahoo:  An agreement has been signed whereby the Chinese firm R2G will help Universal protect its labels from pirates by using high-tech software to track music illegally downloaded from the Internet... Apparently, R2G will be given rights to distribute and monitor Universal's music labels. R2G will work with ISP's and use its technology to check to see if payment is made to the companies with the licenses when music is downloaded...R2G states that China has 100 million web users and about 80 percent of them have downloaded music. To make matters worse though, there are few monitoring agencies to enforce the anti-piracy rules. "In China there's limited effective policing against music piracy online," said Mathew Daniel, director of business development for R2G.

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April 19, 2005

AOL Reaches Deal With Universal For Music Videos

HollywoodReporter: America Online has disclosed an agreement with Universal Music Group, and a deal with Warner Music Group is expected shortly, to put music videos online, for free, on its music site AOL Music. Additional labels already are in negotiations as well. The videos will be monetized by advertising in different forms, most commonly banners and in-stream messages.
NYT: The deal comes more than two months after UMG demanded that online services and cable companies agree to new financial terms for the use of music videos or remove the clips from their on-demand services. Universal is close to a similar arrangement with Yahoo.
The per-view (each viewing of video by a user) fee will reach its top rate in early 2006, at slightly less than a penny...That is less than the penny or more Universal sought originally, but it also represents a major break from past practices, in which record labels provided new videos free under the theory that they served as promotion. (sub. req.): Yahoo! Music, and RealNetworks' are among the music portals still not featuring UMG videos in the wake of the label's new policy. Negotiations between those companies and UMG are believed to be ongoing. As for AOL, it becomes UMG's second licensee under the new policy, joining Microsoft's MSN Music, which signed on two months ago.

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April 14, 2005

Universal Music Partners with Bad Boy Records

Reuters:  Warner Music Group announced today that it has closed a deal to buy half of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records label.  According to the report, "neither side commented on the financial terms of the deal, but sources familiar with the transaction put the value at between $30 million and $40 million." As part of the new venture, Warner will market and handle digital and physical distribution of Bad Boy's new and catalog releases worldwide...


--P. Diddy, Warner Music Ink Joint Venture Deal for Bad Boy Records

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