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Universal Music, YG invest in livestreaming service

Universal Music Group (UMG) and K-pop label YG Entertainment have invested in KBYK Live, a livestreaming company backed by BTS’s management company, Big Hit Entertainment.

The investment from YG – home to Korean superstars including Blackpink, Big Bang and iKon – and UMG will go towards expanding KBYK Live’s VenewLive, bringing both companies’ rosters of artists to the platform, which boasts augmented reality (AR), multi-view and 4K streaming capabilities. KBYK Live was established after Big Hit and tech start-up Kiswe partnered last summer.

The technology behind VenewLive was demonstrated at BTS’s record-breaking Bang Bang Con: The Live and Map of the Soul: One in June and October respectively. The former drew in a peak concurrent audience of 756,000, while the latter was viewed by nearly a million people worldwide.

The shows also offered a variety of premium features, delivering a full stage production from multiple angles in 4K resolution, with live chat and synchronised light sticks.

“This past year has shown that the need for reliable and innovative livestreaming has never been greater”

“VenewLive has already livestreamed several large-scale performances last year and provided unique immersive fan concert experiences that can be offered through our cutting-edge technologies, including six-angle multi-views, 4K resolution and various interactive features,” says KBYK Live CEO John Lee. “Our technology will be the basis for enabling fans to feel closer to artists, and help artists express their energy on a digital stage.”

“We are excited about this investment as our company, with many artists competitive on a global stage, has secured a high-quality platform with leading technologies,” adds YG Entertainment COO Sung Jun Choi. “We will continue to do our best to provide more interactive experiences and new services to global fans.”

Boyd Muir, executive vice-president and CFO of Universal Music, says its unspecified investment into KBYK/VenewLive will allow the company to “evolve the opportunities and live streaming experiences for UMG artists and their fans today and into the future”.

“This past year has shown that the need for reliable and innovative livestreaming has never been greater,” he adds. “VenewLive offers some of the most creative and memorable opportunities for today’s artists to globalise their art and performances, tailored to enhance the community and fan experience.”

 


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Gidi’s Chin Okeke named MD, UMG Nigeria

Chinedu Okeke, founder of promoter Eclipse Live and executive producer of ‘Coachella in Lagos’, Nigeria’s Gidi Culture Festival, has been named managing director of Universal Music Nigeria.

Reporting to Sipho Dlamini, who has been also promoted to CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Okeke will oversee the expansion of Universal Music Group (UMG)’s operation in both Nigeria and other English-speaking west African countries.

The hiring of Okeke is one of a trio of new appointments for UMG in Africa, with Elouise Kelly also joining as COO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, similarly reporting to the newly elevated Dlamini.

The leadership appointments cement UMG parent Vivendi’s focus on growing its activities in Africa, which also include similar initiatives in French-speaking west Africa, where the company has built a string of entertainment venues and cinemas.

UMG, the world’s largest recorded music company, is itself active in Nigeria, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco and South Africa.

“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world”

“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world,” says Dlamini, “as it continues to influence and inspire culture and creativity while reaching a wider audience globally each day through streaming.

“I am delighted to welcome both Elouise and Chin to the UMG family; their unique skills and experiences will only help to further establish UMG as a bedrock within the African music community that will continue to put the interests and opportunities for artists first and help elevate African talent to new levels of success at home and abroad.”

Adam Granite, UMG’s EVP of market development, adds: “I am thrilled to announce these strategic appointments, as we look to further develop our domestic infrastructure and label rosters within Africa. Most integral to achieving our long-term ambitions is to build a strong leadership team on the ground, with deep foundations in each country, to help grow a dynamic ecosystem for all to benefit in the future.

“Over the past few years, Sipho has shown great leadership, commitment and vision for music in Africa, helping UMG to introduce new talent to audiences around the world and identify opportunities to lead the industry in licensing and supporting new platforms to reach African music fans.

“Elouise and Chin both bring welcome new skills, proven entrepreneurship and important leadership experience that will only serve to bolster UMG’s position as the market leader across Africa.”

 


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Universal Music Group to open music-first hotels

Universal Music Group (UMG) has announced a collection of music-based experiential hotel properties, as part of a joint venture with entertainment investment group Dakia U-Ventures.

UMusic Hotels’ first three locations are Atlanta, Georgia; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Orlando, Florida; with additional cities across the US and around the world to be announced.

The hotels will draw inspiration from their respective local culture with designs that complement the city landscape and incorporate elements of the local music scene.

Bruce Resnikoff, president and CEO of Universal Music Enterprises, says: “Through music’s unique power to inspire and unite – especially given UMG’s unparalleled roster of artists and labels – UMusic Hotels will both highlight these cities’ rich music heritages and provide new opportunities for artists to reach fans in immersive, innovative and authentic ways.”

“UMusic Hotels will highlight these cities’ rich music heritages and provide new opportunities for artists to reach fans”

Robert Lavia, chairman at Dakia U-Ventures, says: “Every destination holds a great story just waiting to be told through its cultural heritage and its music. Through this new concept, we will both help people discover new ways to channel their love for music and the arts and help empower the transformation of communities worldwide through cultural, inspirational, creative and conscious collaboration.

“And we’re thrilled to work together with UMG who shares our vision and passion about the powerful role of culture and music for each community we touch.”

Pyramid Hotel Group has partnered with the joint venture for the US operations of the hotels. Warren Fields, Pyramid’s CEO, says: “We’re excited to work with the Dakia U-Ventures and UMG teams to launch this new category of experiential hospitality and helping to create properties that truly embody the spirit of the communities of which Umusic Hotels will be a part. We share in the vision to give fans, guests and our communities best-in-class experiences around the world.”

 


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Mika’s ‘I love Beirut’ concert raises over €1m for charity

Lebanon-born artist Mika has raised over €1 million from his livestreamed charity concert in aid of those affected by last month’s devastating explosion in his home city.

I Love Beirut was livestreamed across four time zones from Mika’s YouTube channel on 19 September and featured performances from himself, Kylie, Rufus Wainwright, Mashrou Leila and others.

More than 100 countries bought tickets to the benefit event – the most recorded on a Ticketmaster event – and 48 countries donated.

The benefit concert raised €1m euros from ticket sales, sponsors and members of the public donating via GoFundMe. The money will be split between the Lebanese Red Cross and Save the Children. Donations can still be made here.

“Thank you to everyone around the world who bought a ticket to the stream, donated to GoFundMe and our sponsors for helping us to raise such an amazing amount of money,” says Mika.

“I also wanted to say how amazing this statement of solidarity for the situation in Beirut has been, with tickets for the stream selling to over 120 different countries around the world.

“This has been a project that was born out of and made possible by love, and a huge amount of collaboration with friends and many new friends made in the process.”

More than 100 countries bought tickets to the benefit event – the most recorded on a Ticketmaster event

Georges Kettaneh, secretary general of the Lebanese Red Cross, said: “We are extremely grateful for this generous support and for the solidarity that has been expressed. These funds will help the Lebanese Red Cross to continue to support Beirut at this time of great need.

“The people of Beirut face a long road to recovery, with this generosity and the continued support we have received from around the globe, we can continue to stand alongside them for as long we are needed.”

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK said: “Save the Children is working around the clock to provide vital support to children and families in Lebanon whose lives have been devastated by the explosion in Beirut. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has come together to raise this incredible total.

“All donations will be going towards our emergency response efforts in Lebanon, which include weatherproofing damaged homes, supporting vulnerable and displaced families with food and cash grants, and providing ongoing psychological support for children and families.”

Mika will also perform at United for Lebanon, a charity event organised by French media conglomerate, Vivendi.

The benefit will take place tomorrow (1 October) in L’Olympia in Paris, featuring artists from Vivendi subsidiary Universal Music Group, including Sting, Clara Luciani, Florent Pagny, Melody Gardot, Soolking and Grand Corps Sick.

The concert will be broadcast live on France 2 and France Inter and a small audience will be present, in compliance with Covid regulations.

Fundraisers For Beirut and The Sound of Beirut took place earlier this month.

 


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Warner Music Group files for IPO

Label giant Warner Music Group (WMG), which owns a number of live assets in addition to its recorded music interests, has announced plans for an initial public offering (IPO).

The number of shares of common stock to be offered and the price of the offering have not yet been disclosed.

The announcement signals WMG’s return to the stock market, where it traded until 2011, before being bought by British billionaire Len Blavatnik through his company Access Industries for US$3.3 billion.

The news comes after the recent valuation of rival Universal Music Group at over US$30 billion, following Chinese entertainment giant Tencent’s acquisition of a 10% stake in the company.

The announcement signals WMG’s return to the stock market, where it traded until 2011

The Warner Music Group includes the records labels Warner, Atlantic, Elektra and Parlophone, publishing and global music distribution arms and is home to artists including Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Dua Lipa and Bruno Mars.

WMG’s live music interests include concert discovery platform Songkick, Finnish promoter Warner Music Live and management company Umbrella Artists Productions, which it owns with promoter FKP Scorpio.

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs are managing the flotation.

WMG’s filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) can be read here.

 


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Universal reports merchandise boom in 2019

Universal Music Group (UMG) has revealed that its revenues from merchandise sales nearly doubled in the first nine months of 2019, boosted by strong demand and a healthy global touring market.

According to UMG parent Vivendi’s third-quarter (Q3) 2019 financial results, merchandising and other related revenues increased by a whopping 82.4% year on a constant-currency basis compared to the first nine months of 2018, “thanks to increased touring activity and growth in retail and D2C (direct-to-consumer) revenues.”

In total, UMG grew turnover 17.5% in the nine months ending September 2019, to over €5 billion (€1.8bn in Q3). France-based Vivendi is currently in the process of selling a 10% stake in UMG to China’s Tencent for €30bn – as well as, potentially, “other partners”, according to its latest financials, “some of whom have already expressed an interest in investing at a similar price level”.

The growth of the music merchandising sector has accelerated in recent years, with merch sales totalling nearly US$3.5 billion in 2018 (though the impact of Brexit is cause for concern in Europe).

Universal’s merchandising division is Bravado, which earlier this year expanded its footprint by acquiring rival operation Epic Rights. Its major-label rivals are also increasingly making inroads into the merchandise space, with Warner Music last year acquiring EMP Merchandising and Sony Music investing in the Araca Group and Kontraband.

Merch grew “thanks to increased touring activity and growth in retail and D2C revenues”

Elsewhere in the Vivendi group, Vivendi Village – the business unit that includes its live entertainment and ticketing activities – grew revenues more than 50%, to €108 million, in the January–September period, bolstered by a strong festival summer and growth for See Tickets in North America.

“Live activities, which include Olympia Production (France), U Live (Great Britain) and venues in France and Africa, recorded very strong revenue growth at €56 million, a strong increase (x2.4),” reads the Q3 financial report. “Vivendi Village now produces 12 festivals that experienced a significant increase in attendance this past summer, especially Garorock in France and Sundown in the United Kingdom.”

Vivendi’s other festivals include Les Déferlantes Brive Festival in France, the UK’s Love Supreme, Poptopia in the US and Universal Music Festival in Spain.

“Ticketing activities are now all grouped under the same See Tickets brand,” continues the report. “Ticketing revenues amounted to €48 million, an increase of 19.5% compared to the first nine months of 2018 (+8.5% at constant currency and perimeter), due in particular to the robust growth of the activities in the Unites States, where revenues doubled in one year.”

In total, Vivendi turned over €4bn (+7.2%) in Q3 2019 and €11.3bn (+6.9%) across the year to date.

 


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Vivendi moves forward with UMG sale

French media conglomerate Vivendi is in talks with Chinese tech group Tencent to sell 10% of its stake in Universal Music Group (UMG).

According to Vivendi, the deal would place UMG at a valuation of €30 billion. Tencent would also have the option of increasing its stake by another 10% in a year, at the same valuation.

Vivendi shares rose 9% in early trading today (Tuesday 6 August), following the announcement of Tencent negotiations and were up 6% to €25.4 at press time.

The French media company believes the deal with China’s Tencent could aid UMG growth through “digitilisation and the opening of new markets”. The company also hopes to improve promotion of UMG artists.

“Vivendi is keen to explore cooperation which could help UMG capture growth opportunities offered by opening of new markets”

The potential sale of a UMG stake has been discussed since 2018, with the plan being to sell the stake to “one or more strategic partners”, rather than via an IPO.

A statement from Vivendi states the media company will continue the process for the sale of an additional minority stake in UMG to other potential partners.

Recent Vivendi half-year financial results show UMG revenues up 18.6% to US$3.7bn, with music by artists including Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish performing particularly well.

The results also showed revenue from Vivendi’s live entertainment and ticketing unit, Vivendi Village, up 55% on a year-on-year basis to €66m.

 


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Vivendi grows ticketing, live revenue in Q1

Vivendi Village (VV), the division of French media giant Vivendi related to live entertainment, has recorded a strong first financial quarter for 2019, with particular growth in ticketing revenues.

The Vivendi subsidiary includes ticketing operations See Tickets, Digitick and Paylogic, as well as live event producers Vivendi Talents & Live and promoter Olympia Production, which owns festivals and venues in France, the UK and Africa.

Overall VV revenues were up 0.4% from the first quarter of 2018 and 16.4% at constant currency and perimeter, which reflects the impact of the acquisition of ticketing technology platform Paylogic in April last year.

Ticketing revenues amounted to 15m, an increase of 38.3% compared to the first quarter of 2018. The company attributes the success to the acquisition of Paylogic, which enabled further expansion throughout Europe and access to Paylogic clients including Tomorrowland, ID&T, Amsterdam Dance Event and Awakenings.

In 2018, Vivendi’s ticketing platforms turned over 58m, selling a record 20m tickets.

The company’s live activities recorded revenues of 7m, an increase of 57.4% at constant currency and perimeter as compared to the same period of last year.

Overall, Vivendi’s group revenue saw an increase of 10.7% as compared to Q1 of last year

In February 2019, Olympia Production signed an agreement for the co-production, ticketing and communication of the ODP Talence festival in southwest France, in line with its policy to develop regional festivals in France. The festival, which celebrated its fourth edition last year, received 17,000 visitors over three days.

Olympia Production acquired popular French music festival Garorock (50,000-cap.) in October last year.

CanalOlympia is expected to open its twelfth venue on April 17 in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo, adding to existing venues in Guinea, Niger, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Benin, Togo and Gabon.

Overall, Vivendi’s group revenue saw an increase of 10.7% as compared to Q1 of last year, amounting 3,459m.

The French media conglomerate mainly attributes this to the growth of Universal Music Group, which grew revenue to 1,502m, up 18.8% at constant currency and perimeter and 22.9% on an actual basis.

New releases from Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish, as well as continued sales of the A Star is Born soundtrack and Queen albums contributed to UMG’s first quarter success.

Vivendi is aiming to sell up to 50% of UMG’s share capital to one or more partners “likely to accelerate UMG’s development and increase its value”.

 


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Bravado acquires Dell Furano’s Epic Rights

Universal-owned branding/merchandising company Bravado has acquired US rival Epic Rights, founded by music merch pioneer Dell Furano, for an undisclosed sum.

Epic Rights’ clients include David Bowie, Kiss, Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Eric Clapton, Kevin Hart, Madonna, Celine Dion, Britney Spears and Woodstock Festival, among others.

Furano – who, alongside legendary promoter Bill Graham founded Winterland Productions, one of the first music merchandising companies, in the 1970s, before serving as CEO of Sony Signatures, Live Nation Merchandise and, finally, Epic Rights – will continue to lead the company and build merchandising opportunities for its roster.

“I look forward to expanding Epic’s roster and artist services in this next chapter”

“As the industry’s preeminent brand management company, we are constantly looking for ways to evolve our company while providing fans around the world with an ever-growing array of products and experiences,” says Mat Vlasic, CEO of Bravado. “I’m excited to work with Dell, a true icon in our industry, and expand the Bravado portfolio.”

“I have great respect for Mat and his teams at Bravado and Universal Music – they have taken product development, marketing and global distribution to an entirely new level,” adds Furano. “I’m very proud of all that we’ve achieved at Epic Rights, and look forward to expanding Epic’s roster and artist services in this next chapter.”

Bravado represents artists in more than 40 countries, providing services including sales, licensing, branding, marketing and ecommerce to clients including Justin Bieber, the Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Adele, the 1975 and Sam Smith.

 


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Africa: the power of music

I’ve been watching the African music scene very closely for many years – not because my family’s from Tanzania or because I think African artists need my help, I do it because the music market that’s developing over there has enormous potential for growth.

Africa’s sounds have long been audible on every continent – as sources of inspiration, in samples, and through collaborations. Now the artists themselves are making the leap so that they can take Europe and the rest of the world by storm with their songs.

The African music industry also offers incredible economic opportunities. It’s a source market for selling African music in Germany, Europe and the world, and a target market where increasing digitalisation, new business models like streaming, and an ever-expanding middle class, promise additional potential for sales. What’s more, as the home market of African artists, Africa is extremely attractive to African audiences. A healthy, vibrant domestic market is ultimately still the best environment for helping the stars of tomorrow to grow.

One of the most important factors for developing young talent in Africa (as elsewhere) is the live music scene. Especially at the start of their career, artists have to be able to try things out and play in front of audiences so that they can grow creatively. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needed for this, like venues and a solid network of promoters, can’t always keep up with the speed at which the industry is developing. That’s why Universal Music itself is increasingly getting involved in the concert and festival scene in countries like South Africa. It’s also now behind 11 live music venues in West African countries including Senegal, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast.

“The image of a place ravaged by famine and violence is being replaced by one of a continent filled with opportunities and looking to a prosperous future”

As the world leader in music-based entertainment, it’s in our own interests to actively further our artists’ home markets. Incidentally, my colleagues are doing this so successfully that many artists who aren’t part of the Universal Music world choose to collaborate with us for live shows. In South Africa alone, we booked over 600 artists for shows in 2017, and we’re on track to exceed that figure this year. It’s therefore no coincidence that U Live – a division of Universal Music South Africa – is the booking agent for The Voice of South Africa. U Live Africa also produces live concerts and festivals in Nigeria. These include Runway Jazz, Cocktails & Wine, and the first Nigerian concert by US music project Major Lazer.

Creative products like music are some of the most valuable and definitely the most sustainable resources that countries in Africa possess. We help our artists and local partners to develop and harness their own creative and economic power. We expand their reach and help them tap into their transcontinental potential. Above all, we work with our artists as equals because the success they have achieved in their home markets rightly makes them self-assured professionals who are secure in their own careers.

Concerts and festivals are the best places for us to see how much traction an artist has with the audience. In a way, it’s like we can watch new trends being born. We’re really excited to see the momentum that genres like hip-hop, gqom (a relatively new hit genre from Durban), and house have gained. Things are pretty much the same in the pop world. Africa might well be made up of many different countries that each have different traditions and music, but just like any other continent, stars come along who are universally awesome and work just as well in Cape Town as they do in Nairobi or Berlin. That’s the level we’re looking for, and we keep on finding it.

“Stars like Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and Mafikizolo and Nasty C from South Africa, are the new heroes of the continent”

International artists are also helping to develop Africa’s music industry. South Africa, for instance, has long been home to an excellent promoter scene, that in turn attracts other players.

Tanzania will be the fastest growing media and entertainment market in the world up to 2021. South Africa’s music market is expected to see constant growth in excess of 5% over the coming years. And Nigeria, which ranks number two in Africa, should even see ongoing double-digit growth. As well as making the eyes of dedicated A&R managers light up, that’s also music to accountants’ ears.

Yet music can do so much more than just business. African stars are creating a new face for their continent and changing the way people see it. The image of a place ravaged by famine and violence is being replaced by one of a continent filled with opportunities and looking to a prosperous future.

Stars like Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and Mafikizolo and Nasty C from South Africa, are the new heroes of the continent. Their power, their star appeal, and their presence, tell of a continent that wants more and is demanding a seat at the main table in the music industry. And for my colleagues in both Africa and Europe, it is a pleasure and an honour to support them on this journey.

 


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