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Risk Factors - WMG

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Item 1A. Risk Factors herein.
You should read this Annual Report completely and with the understanding that actual future results may be materially different from expectations. This Annual Report should be read completely and with the understanding that actual future results may be materially different from expectations. All forward-looking statements made in this Annual Report are qualified by these cautionary statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which it is made, and we do not undertake any obligation, other than as may be required by law, to update or revise any forward-looking or cautionary statements to reflect changes in assumptions, the occurrence of events, unanticipated or otherwise, and changes in future operating results over time or otherwise. Comparisons of results for current and any prior periods are not intended to express any future trends or indications of future performance, unless expressed as such, and should only be viewed as historical data.
Other risks, uncertainties and factors, including those discussed in Item 1A. Risk Factors herein, could cause our actual results to differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statements we make. You should read carefully the factors described in Item 1A to better understand the risks and uncertainties inherent in our business and underlying any forward-looking statements.
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SUMMARY RISK FACTORS
Our business is subject to a number of risks, including risks that may prevent us from achieving our business objectives or may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and prospects. These risks are discussed more fully in Item 1A. Risk Factors herein. These risks include, but are not limited to, the following:
our ability to identify, sign and retain recording artists and songwriters and the existence or absence of superstar releases;
the ability to further develop a successful business model applicable to a digital environment and to enter into artist services and expanded-rights deals with recording artists in order to broaden our revenue streams in growing segments of the music entertainment business;
our revenues are subject to rate regulation, or set, by governmental entities or local third-party collecting societies which may limit profitability;
the popular demand for particular recording artists or songwriters and music and the timely delivery to us of music by major recording artists or songwriters;
our results of operations, cash flows and financial condition are expected to be adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic;
the diversity and quality of our recording artists, songwriters and releases;
slower growth in streaming adoption and revenue;
our dependence on a limited number of digital music services for the online distribution and marketing of our music and their ability to significantly influence the pricing structure for online music stores;
risks associated with our non-U.S. operations, including limited legal protections of our intellectual property rights and restrictions on the repatriation of capital;
the impact of heightened and intensive competition in the recorded music and music publishing industries and our inability to execute our business strategy;
ability to obtain, maintain, protect and enforce our intellectual property rights;
threats to our business associated with digital piracy, including organized industrial piracy, and cyber security;
a potential loss of catalog if it is determined that recording artists have a right to recapture U.S. rights in their recordings under the U.S. Copyright Act;
our substantial leverage; and
holders of our Class A Common Stock have limited or no ability to influence corporate matters due to the dual class structure of our common stock and the existing ownership of Class B Common Stock by Access, which has the effect of concentrating voting control with Access for the foreseeable future.
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PART I
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Introduction
Warner Music Group Corp. (the “Company”) was formed on November 21, 2003. We are the direct parent of WMG Holdings Corp. (“Holdings”), which is the direct parent of WMG Acquisition Corp. (“Acquisition Corp.”). Acquisition Corp. is one of the world’s major music entertainment companies.
The Company and Holdings are holding companies that conduct substantially all of their business operations through their subsidiaries. The terms “we,” “us,” “our,” “ours” and the “Company” refer collectively to Warner Music Group Corp. and its consolidated subsidiaries, unless the context refers only to Warner Music Group Corp. as a corporate entity.
Acquisition of Warner Music Group by Access Industries
Pursuant to the Agreement and Plan of Merger, dated as of May 6, 2011 (the “Merger Agreement”), by and among the Company, AI Entertainment Holdings LLC (formerly Airplanes Music LLC), a Delaware limited liability company (“Parent”) and an affiliate of Access Industries, Inc., and Airplanes Merger Sub, Inc., a Delaware corporation and a wholly owned subsidiary of Parent (“Merger Sub”), on July 20, 2011 (the “Merger Closing Date”), Merger Sub merged with and into the Company with the Company surviving as a wholly owned subsidiary of Parent (the “Merger”). In connection with the Merger, the Company delisted its common stock from the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”).
Initial Public Offering
On June 5, 2020, the Company went public again and completed an initial public offering (“IPO”) of Class A common stock of the Company, par value $0.001 per share (“Class A Common Stock”). The Company listed its shares on the NASDAQ stock market under the ticker symbol “WMG. The Company listed these shares on the NASDAQ stock market under the ticker symbol “WMG. ” The offering consisted entirely of secondary shares sold by Access Industries, LLC (collectively with its affiliates, “Access”) and certain related selling stockholders.
Following the completion of the IPO, Access and its affiliates continue to hold all of the Class B common stock of the Company, par value $0.001 per share (“Class B Common Stock”), representing approximately 98% of the total combined voting power of the Company’s outstanding common stock and approximately 76% of the economic interest. As a result, the Company is a “controlled company” within the meaning of the corporate governance standards of NASDAQ. See Item 1A. Risk Factors — Risks Related to Our Controlling Stockholder.
Our Company
We are one of the world’s leading music entertainment companies. Our renowned family of iconic record labels, including Atlantic Records, Warner Records, Elektra Records and Parlophone Records, is home to many of the world’s most popular and influential recording artists. In addition, Warner Chappell Music, our global music publishing business, boasts an extraordinary catalog that includes timeless standards and contemporary hits, representing works by over 100,000 songwriters and composers, with a global collection of more than one million musical compositions. Our entrepreneurial spirit and passion for music has driven our recording artist and songwriter focused innovation for decades.
Our Recorded Music business, home to superstar recording artists such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Cardi B and Dua Lipa, generated $4.544 billion of revenue in fiscal 2021, representing 86% of total revenues.Our Recorded Music business, home to superstar recording artists such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Cardi B, generated $3.810 billion of revenue in fiscal 2020, representing 85% of total revenues. Our Music Publishing business, which includes esteemed songwriters such as Twenty One Pilots, Lizzo and Katy Perry, generated $761 million of revenue in fiscal 2021, representing 14% of total revenues. Our Music Publishing business, which includes esteemed songwriters such as Twenty One Pilots, Lizzo and Katy Perry, generated $657 million of revenue in fiscal 2020, representing 15% of total revenues. We benefit from the scale of our global platform and our local focus.
Today, global music entertainment companies such as ours are more important and relevant than ever. The traditional barriers to widespread distribution of music have been erased. The tools to make and distribute music are at every musician’s fingertips, and today’s technology makes it possible for music to travel around the world in an instant. This has resulted in music being ubiquitous and accessible at all times. Against this industry backdrop, the volume of music being released on digital platforms is making it harder for recording artists and songwriters to get noticed. We cut through the noise by identifying, signing, developing and marketing extraordinary talent. Our global artists and repertoire (“A&R”) experience and marketing strategies are critical ingredients for recording artists or songwriters who want to build long-term global careers. We believe that the music, not the technology, delights fans and drives the business forward.
Our commercial innovation is crucial to maintaining our momentum. We have championed new business models and empowered established players, while protecting and enhancing the value of music. We were the first major music entertainment
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company to strike landmark deals with important companies such as Apple, YouTube and Tencent Music Entertainment Group, as well as with pure-play music technology companies such as MixCloud, SoundCloud and Audiomack. We adapted to streaming faster than other major music entertainment companies and, in 2016, were the first such company to report that streaming was the largest source of our recorded music revenue. Looking into the future, we believe the universe of opportunities will continue to expand, including through the proliferation of new devices such as smart speakers and the monetization of music on social media, fitness and other platforms. We believe advancements in technology will continue to drive consumer engagement and shape a growing and vibrant music entertainment ecosystem.
Our History
The Company today consists of individual companies that are among the most respected and iconic in the music industry, with a history that dates back to the establishment of Chappell & Co. in 1811 and Parlophone in 1896.
The Company began to take shape in 1967 when Warner-Seven Arts, the parent company of Warner Records (formerly known as Warner Bros. Records) acquired Atlantic Records, which discovered artists such as Led Zeppelin and Aretha Franklin. In 1969, Kinney National Company acquired Warner-Seven Arts, and in 1970, Kinney Services (which was later spun off into Warner Communications) acquired Elektra Records, which was renowned for artists such as The Doors and Judy Collins. In order to harness their collective strength and capabilities, in 1971, Warner Bros., Elektra and Atlantic Records formed a groundbreaking U.S. distribution network commonly known as WEA Corp., or simply WEA, which now stretches across the world.
Throughout this time, the Company’s music publishing division, Warner Bros. Music, built a strong presence. In 1987, the purchase of Chappell & Co. created Warner Chappell Music, one of the industry’s major music publishing forces with a storied history that today connects Ludwig van Beethoven, George Gershwin, Madonna and Lizzo.
The parent company that had grown to become Time Warner completed the sale of the Company to a consortium of private equity investors in 2004, in the process creating the world’s largest independent music company. The Company was taken public the following year, and in 2011, Access acquired the Company.
Since acquiring the Company, Access has focused on revenue growth and increasing operating margins and cash flow combined with financial discipline. Looking past more than a decade of music entertainment industry transitions, Access and the Company foresaw the opportunities that streaming presented for music. Over the last eight years, Access has consistently backed the Company’s bold expansion strategies through organic A&R as well as acquisitions. These strategies include investing more heavily in recording artists and songwriters, growing the Company’s global reach, augmenting its streaming expertise, overhauling its systems and technological infrastructure, and diversifying into other music-based revenue streams.
The purchase of Parlophone Label Group (“PLG”) in 2013 strengthened the Company’s presence in core European territories, with recording artists as diverse as Coldplay, David Bowie, David Guetta and Iron Maiden. That acquisition was followed by other investments that further strengthened the Company’s footprint in established and emerging markets. Other milestones include the Company’s acquisitions of direct-to-audience businesses such as entertainment specialty e-tailer EMP Merchandising, live music application Songkick and youth culture platform UPROXX. Other milestones include the Company’s acquisitions of direct-to-audience businesses such as entertainment specialty e-tailer EMP (as defined later in this Annual Report), live music application Songkick and youth culture platform UPROXX.
Industry Overview
The music entertainment industry is large, global and vibrant. The recorded music and music publishing industries are growing, driven by consumer and demographic trends in the digital consumption of music.
Consumer Trends and Demographics
Consumers today engage with music in more ways than ever. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (“IFPI”), global consumers spent 18.4 hours listening to music each week in 2020. Demographic trends and digital music penetration have been key factors in driving growth in music consumption. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (“IFPI”), global consumers spent 18 hours listening to music each week in 2019. Demographic trends and smartphone penetration have been key factors in driving growth in consumer engagement. Younger consumers typically are early adopters of new technologies, including music-enabled devices. According to Nielsen, in 2019, 58% of teens in the United States between the ages of 13 and 17 and 45% of millennials in the United States between the ages of 18 and 34 used their smartphones to listen to music on a weekly basis, as compared to a 40% average for all U.S. consumers. According to IFPI, in 2020, smartphones were the device on which people listened to most music and comprised 40% of all music listening time across all age groups, up from 29% in 2019. Smartphones were followed by music listening on computers (19.2%), on the radio (13.4%), on a music system / hi-fi or turntable (7.9%), with portable Bluetooth speakers or smart speakers comprising 7.6% of all music listening in 2020. Additionally, according to IFPI, in the physical sales space, vinyl revenues grew for the 14th consecutive year in 2020, and it was the number one selling physical music format in 17 countries (up from 10 in 2019).
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Members of older demographic groups are also increasing their music engagement. According to an IFPI survey of 19 leading geographic markets in 2019, 54% of 35- to 64-year-olds used a streaming service to listen to music in the past month, representing an increase from 46% in 2018, which was the highest rate of growth for use of streaming services across all age groups.
Music permeates our culture across age groups, as evidenced by the footprint that music has across social media. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”), as of September 2021, 6 out of the top 10 most followed accounts on Twitter belong to musicians, and according to YouTube, the majority of videos that have achieved more than one billion lifetime views as well as the top 10 most watched videos of all time, belong to musicians.
Recorded Music
The recorded music industry generated $21.6 billion in global revenue in 2020, according to IFPI, which represents a year-over-year increase of 7.4%, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth. According to IFPI, global recorded music revenue has grown at a CAGR of 8% since 2016.
IFPI measures the recorded music industry on a global scale based on five revenue categories: streaming, downloads and other digital (excluding streaming), physical, synchronization and performance rights. Streaming is the largest of these categories, generating $13.4 billion of revenue in 2020, representing 62% of global recorded music revenue. Within streaming, subscription audio streams generated approximately 74% of revenue, or $9.9 billion, with the remainder of streaming revenue coming from ad-supported audio streams and video streams, which generated 26% of revenue, or $3.5 billion. Overall, streaming grew by 19.9% in 2020 as compared to 2019. Physical represented approximately 19% of global recorded music revenue in 2020, with growth in formats such as vinyl partially offsetting declines in CD sales. Performance rights revenue represents the use of recorded music by broadcasters and public venues, and represented approximately 11% of global recorded music revenue in 2020. Downloads and other digital revenue represented approximately 6% of global recorded music revenue in 2020. Synchronization revenue is generated from the use of recorded music in advertising, film, video games and television content, and represented 2% of global recorded music revenue in 2020.
Global Recorded Music Industry Revenues 2016 to 2020 ($ in billions)
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Source: IFPI
From a geographical standpoint, the largest markets for recorded music in 2020 were the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Korea, China, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. The graphic below sets out the top ten markets and their respective revenue growth for 2020.
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wmg-20210930_g2.gif
Source: IFPI
We believe the following secular trends will continue to drive growth in the recorded music industry:
Streaming Still in Early Stages of Global Adoption and Penetration
According to IFPI, global paid music streaming subscribers totaled 443 million at the end of 2020. While this represents an increase of 30% from 341 million in 2019, it still represents less than 12% of the 3.6 billion smartphone users globally in 2020, according to Newzoo. It also represents a small fraction of the user bases for large, globally scaled digital services such as Facebook, which reported 2.9 billion monthly users across its services as of September 2021, and YouTube, which reported over 2.3 billion unique monthly users as of October 2021. On-demand audio streaming reached 870 billion streams in the United States in 2020, according to Nielsen, and this growth is expected to continue. It also represents a small fraction of the user bases for large, globally scaled digital services such as Facebook, which reported 2.7 billion monthly users across its services as of September 2020, and YouTube, which reported over two billion unique monthly users as of May 2019. On-demand streaming (both audio and video) reached 1.15 trillion streams in the United States in 2019, according to Nielsen, and this growth is expected to continue. According to Nielsen, as of July 2020, 51% of adults in the U.S. (calculated across four demographic cohorts—Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers) reported that they are spending more time with music during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, according to Nielsen, 56% of adults in the U.S. who added an entertainment subscription during the COVID-19 pandemic added a music streaming subscription, and 87% of those who added a music subscription intend to keep the music subscription after the pandemic passes.
The potential of global paid streaming subscriber growth is demonstrated by the penetration rates in early adopter markets. Approximately 43% of the population in Sweden, where Spotify was founded, was estimated to be paid music subscribers in 2020, according to Goldman Sachs. This compares to approximately 27% and 18% for established markets such as the United States and Germany, respectively. Moreover, paid digital music subscribers in Japan, the world’s second-largest recorded music market in 2020 according to IFPI, still only represented approximately 8% of the population, according to Goldman Sachs. There also remains substantial opportunity in emerging markets, such as Brazil and India, where smartphone penetration is low compared to developed markets. For example, according to Statista, smartphone penetration for Brazil and India as of December 2020 was 51% and 32%, respectively, compared to 82% in the United States. For example, according to Statista, smartphone penetration for Brazil and India as of September 2019 was 46% and 25%, respectively, compared to 79% in the United States.
China, in particular, represents a substantial growth market for the recorded music industry. Digital music monetization models, including paid streaming and virtual gifting (which refers to the purchase of a digital, non-durable, non-physical item (e.g., an emoji) that is delivered to another person often during a live karaoke performance), created the foundation for the recorded music industry to overcome piracy and generate revenue in China. According to Goldman Sachs, paid streaming models are at an early stage in China, with an estimated 4% paid streaming penetration rate in 2020. Despite its substantial population, China was the world’s seventh-largest music market in 2020, having only broken into the top 10 in 2017.
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Opportunities for Improved Streaming Pricing
In addition to paid subscriber growth, we believe that, over time, streaming revenues will increase due to pricing increases as the broader market further develops. Streaming services are already at the early stages of experimenting with price increases. For example, in 2020 Spotify increased monthly prices for its services in Australia and several European and South American markets, and in 2021 Spotify increased prices in the U.S., the U.K. and other European markets. Spotify has reported positive early results, having seen no meaningful impacts to churn or customer intake in these markets. We believe the value proposition that streaming provides to consumers supports premium product initiatives.
Technology Enables Innovation and Presents Additional Opportunities
Technological innovation has helped facilitate the penetration of music listening across locations, including homes, offices and cars, as well as across devices, including smartphones, tablets, wearables, digital dashboards, gaming consoles, smart speakers, exercise equipment, personal computers and connected TVs. These technologies represent advancements that are deepening listener engagement and driving further growth in music consumption.
Device Innovation. According to Nielsen, as of July 2020, U.S. consumers listened to music across an average of 3.7 devices per month. We believe that the use of multiple devices is expanding listening hours by bringing music into more moments of consumers’ lives, and the different uses these devices enable are also broadening the base of music to which consumers are exposed. The music that consumers listen to during a commute may be different than the music they listen to while they exercise, and different still than the music they play through a smart speaker while cooking a meal. Smart speakers enable consumers to access music more readily by using their voices. According to PwC, smart speaker ownership is expected to increase at a 38% CAGR from 2018 through 2023, to 440 million devices globally in 2023. The adoption of smart speakers in the United States has been strong, and according to Nielsen, 27% of music listeners today use a smart speaker to listen to music in a given month. In addition, according to Nielsen, 39% of Generation Z and 38% of millennials own a smart speaker. Smart speakers are fueling further growth in streaming, by converting more casual listeners into paid subscribers, drawn in by music as a critical application for these devices. According to Nielsen, 61% of U.S. consumers who use a smart speaker weekly to listen to music currently pay for a subscription as well.
Format and Monetization Model Innovation. Short-form music and music-based video content has grown rapidly, driven by the growth of global social video applications such as TikTok, which features short videos often set to music. According to Sensor Tower, TikTok was the most downloaded and highest grossing non-game app globally in the first half of 2021, reaching nearly 383 million first-time installs. Such applications have the potential for mass adoption, illustrating the opportunity for additional platforms of scale to be created to the benefit of the music entertainment industry. These platforms enable incremental consumption of music appealing to varied, and often younger, audiences. From a recording artist’s perspective, these platforms have the potential to rewrite the path to stardom. For example, our recording artist, Fitz & the Tantrums, an American band, rose to international fame in 2018 as their song “HandClap” went viral in Asia on TikTok. Fitz & the Tantrums quickly topped the international music charts in South Korea and surpassed one billion streams in China. Short-form music and music-based video content have also become increasingly popular on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube (through its recent introduction of “Shorts”), further illustrating the growing number of potential pathways through which recording artists may gain consumer exposure and grow connections with their fans. Short-form music and music-based video content have also become increasingly popular on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, further illustrating the growing number of potential pathways through which recording artists may gain consumer exposure.
Music Publishing
Music publishing involves the acquisition of rights to, and the licensing of, musical compositions (as opposed to sound recordings) from songwriters, composers or other rights holders. According to Music & Copyright, the music publishing industry generated $5.9 billion in global revenue in 2020, representing an approximate 5.2% increase from $5.6 billion in 2019 (following an increase in global music publishing revenues of 2% from 2018 to 2019).
Music publishing revenues are classified by Music & Copyright as coming from four main royalty sources: digital; mechanical; performance; and synchronization. In 2020, digital, which accounted for approximately 55% of global revenue, represented the largest and fastest-growing component of industry revenues, while performance, which accounted for approximately 20%, represented the second-largest component of industry revenues. Synchronization accounted for approximately 17% of global revenue in 2020. Mechanical revenues from traditional physical music formats (e.g., vinyl, CDs, DVDs), which accounted for approximately 7% of global revenue in 2020, have continued to fall while digital revenues have grown to offset this decline., CDs, DVDs, downloads), which accounted for approximately 8% of global revenue in 2019, have continued to fall while digital revenues have grown to offset this decline.
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Global Music Publishing Industry Revenues 2016 to 2020 ($ in billions)
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Positive Regulatory Trends
The music industry has benefited from positive regulatory developments in recent years, which are expected to lead to increased revenues for the music entertainment industry in the coming years.
Music Modernization Act (“MMA”). In 2018, the enactment of the MMA in the United States resulted in major reforms to music licensing. The MMA improves the way digital music services obtain mechanical licenses for musical compositions, requires the payment of royalties to recording artists for pre-1972 sound recordings streamed on digital radio services such as SiriusXM and Pandora, and provides for direct payments of royalties owed to producers, mixers and engineers when their original works are streamed on non-interactive webcasting services.
Copyright Royalty Board (“CRB”). In 2018, the CRB issued its determination of royalty rates and terms, significantly increasing the mechanical royalty rates paid for musical compositions in the United States from 2018 through 2022. In August 2020, following an appeal of that decision by some digital music services, the decision was vacated in part and the case was remanded to the CRB for further proceedings. In 2018, the CRB issued its determination of royalty rates and terms, significantly increasing the royalty rates paid for sound recordings in the United States by SiriusXM from 2018 through 2022, and the MMA extended that increase through 2027.
European Union Copyright Directive. In 2019, the European Union (“EU”) passed legislation which will rein in safe harbors from liability for copyright infringement and rebalance the online marketplace to ensure that rightsholders and recording artists are remunerated fairly when their music is shared online by user-uploaded content services such as YouTube.”) passed legislation which will rein in safe harbors from liability for copyright infringement and rebalance the online marketplace to ensure that rightsholders and recording artists are remunerated fairly when their music is shared online by user-uploaded content services such as YouTube.
Our Competitive Strengths
Well-Positioned to Benefit from Growth in the Global Music Market Driven by Streaming. The music entertainment industry has undergone a transformation in the consumption and monetization of content towards streaming over the last five years. According to the IFPI, from 2016 through 2020, global recorded music revenue grew at a CAGR of 8%, with streaming revenue growing at a CAGR of 31% and increasing as a percentage of global recorded music revenue from 29% to 62% over the same period. According to the IFPI, from 2015 through 2019, global recorded music revenue grew at a CAGR of 9%, with streaming revenue growing at a CAGR of 42% and increasing as a percentage of global recorded music revenue from 19% to 56% over the same period. By comparison, from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2020, our recorded music streaming revenue grew at a CAGR of 28% and increased as a percentage of our total recorded music revenues from 33% to 63%. We believe our innovation-focused operating strategy with an emphasis on genres that over-index on streaming platforms (e.g., hip-hop and pop) has consistently allowed our digital revenue growth to keep pace with the market, highlighted by our becoming the first major music entertainment company to report that our streaming revenue was the largest source of recorded music revenue in 2016.
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The growth of streaming services has not only improved the discoverability and personalization of music, but has also increased consumer willingness to pay for seamless convenience and access. We believe consumer adoption of paid streaming services still has significant potential for growth. For example, according to Goldman Sachs, in 2019, approximately 43% of the population in Sweden, an early adopter market, was paid music subscribers. This illustrates the opportunity to drive long-term growth by increasing penetration of paid subscriptions throughout the world, including important markets such as the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France, where paid subscriber levels are lower. Our catalog and roster of recording artists and songwriters, including our strengths in hip-hop and pop music, position us to benefit as streaming continues to grow. We also believe our diversified catalog of evergreen music amassed over many decades will prove advantageous as demographics evolve from younger early adopters to a wider demographic mix and as digital music services target broader audiences.
Established Presence in Growing International Markets, Including China. We believe we will benefit from the growth in international markets due to our local A&R focus, as well as our local and global marketing and distribution infrastructure that includes a network of subsidiaries, affiliates, and non-affiliated licensees and sub-publishers in more than 70 countries. We are developing local talent to achieve regional, national and international success. We have expanded our global footprint over time by acquiring independent recorded music and music publishing businesses, catalogs and recording artist and songwriter rosters in China, Indonesia, Poland, Russia and South Africa, among other markets. In addition, we have increased organic investment in heavily populated emerging markets by, for example, launching Warner Music Middle East, our recorded music affiliate covering 17 markets across the Middle East and North Africa with a total population of 460 million people. We have also strengthened our Warner Music Asia executive team with new appointments and promotions.
With every region around the world at different stages in transitioning to digital formats, we believe establishing creative hubs by opening new regional offices and partnering with local players will achieve our objective of building local expertise while delivering maximum global impact for our recording artists and songwriters. For example, we recently invested in one of Nigeria’s leading music entertainment companies, Chocolate City, and music from this influential independent company’s recording artists and songwriters will join our repertoire and receive the support of our wide-ranging global expertise, including distribution and artist services.
Differentiated Platform of Scale with Top Industry Position. With over $4.5 billion in annual recorded music revenues, over half of which are generated outside of the United States, we believe our platform is differentiated by the scale, reach and broad appeal of our music. With over $4 billion in annual revenues, over half of which are generated outside of the United States, we believe our platform is differentiated by the scale, reach and broad appeal of our music. Our collection of owned and controlled recordings and musical compositions, spanning a large variety of genres and geographies over many decades, cannot be replicated. As one of three major music entertainment companies, our industry position remains strong and poised for continued growth. As reported in Music & Copyright, our global recorded music market share has increased approximately 3% from 2011 to 2020, growing from 15.1% to 15.6%. In addition, according to Nielsen, Atlantic Records was the No. 1 record label on the Billboard 200 in the United States in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Star-Making, Culture-Defining Core Capabilities. For decades, our A&R strategy of identifying and nurturing recording artists and songwriters with the talents to be successful has yielded an extensive catalog of iconic music across a wide breadth of musical genres and marquee brands all over the world. Our marketing and promotion departments provide a comprehensive suite of solutions that are specifically tailored to each of our recording artists and carefully coordinated to create the greatest sales momentum for new and catalog releases alike. The development of our vibrant roster of recording artists has been informed by our significant experience in being able to adapt to changes in consumer trends and sentiment over time. Our creative instincts yield custom strategies for each and every one of our recording artists.
In addition, Warner Chappell Music boasts a diversified catalog of timeless classics together with an ever-growing group of contemporary songwriters who are actively contributing to today’s top hits. We believe our longstanding reputation and relationships in the creative community, as well as our historical success in talent development and management, will continue to attract new recording artists and songwriters with staying power and market potential through the strength and scale of our proprietary capabilities.
Strong Financial Profile with Robust Growth, Operating Leverage and Free Cash Flow Generation. For fiscal year 2019 through fiscal year 2021, we have grown as-reported revenues at a CAGR of 9%, and on a constant-currency basis, at a CAGR of 9%, driven by secular tailwinds, organic reinvestment in A&R and strategic acquisitions, partially offset by the impact of the business disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. For our fiscal year 2021, our business generated net income and Adjusted EBITDA of $307 million and $1,090 million, respectively, implying an Adjusted EBITDA margin of approximately 21%. We believe our financial profile provides a strong foundation for our continued growth.
Experienced Leadership Team and Committed Strategic Investor. Our management team has successfully designed and implemented our business strategy, delivering strong financial results, releasing an increasing flow of new music and establishing a dynamic culture of innovation. At the same time, our management team has driven an increase in operating margins and cash flow through an improved revenue mix to higher-margin digital platforms and overhead cost management, while maintaining financial
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flexibility to both organically invest in the business and pursue strategic acquisitions to diversify our revenue mix. Our Recorded Music and Music Publishing businesses are led by entrepreneurial and creative individuals with extensive experience in discovering and developing recording artists and songwriters and managing their creative output on a global scale. In addition, we have benefited, and expect to continue to benefit, from our acquisition by Access in July 2011, which has provided us with strategic direction, M&A and capital markets expertise and planning support to help us take full advantage of the ongoing transition in the music entertainment industry.
Expertise in Strategic Acquisitions and Investments That Extend Our Capabilities. Since 2011 when Access became our controlling shareholder, we have completed more than 15 strategic acquisitions. The acquisition of PLG in 2013 significantly strengthened our worldwide roster, global footprint and executive talent, particularly in Europe. In addition, we have made several smaller strategic acquisitions aimed at expanding our artist services capabilities in our Recorded Music business, including EMP, one of Europe’s leading specialty music and entertainment merchandise e-tailers; Sodatone, a premier A&R insight tool; UPROXX, the youth culture and video production powerhouse; Spinnin’ Records, one of the world’s leading independent electronic music companies; and Songkick’s concert discovery application. These transactions showcase the growing breadth of our platform across the music entertainment ecosystem and have increased our direct access to fans of our recording artists and songwriters. In addition to our commercial arrangements with digital music services, we opportunistically invest in some of those services as well as other companies in our industry, including minority equity stakes in Deezer, a French digital music service in which Access owns a controlling equity interest, and Tencent Music Entertainment Group, the leading online music entertainment platform in China. Acquiring and investing in businesses that are highly complementary to our existing portfolio further enables us to potentially derive incremental and new revenue streams from different business models in new markets.
Our Growth Strategies
Attract, Develop and Retain Established and Emerging Recording Artists and Songwriters. A critical component of our global strategy is to produce an increasing flow of new music by finding, developing and retaining recording artists and songwriters who achieve long-term success. Since 2011, our annual new releases have grown significantly and our catalog of musical compositions has increased to more than one million. We expect to enhance the value of our assets by continuing to attract and develop new recording artists and songwriters with staying power and market potential. Our A&R teams seek to sign talented recording artists and songwriters who will generate meaningful revenues and increase the enduring value of our catalog. We have also made meaningful investments in technology to further expand our A&R capabilities in a rapidly changing music environment. In 2018, we acquired Sodatone, an advanced A&R tool that uses streaming, social and touring data to help track early predictors of success. When combined with the strength of our current ability to identify creative talent, we expect this to further enhance our ability to scout and sign breakthrough recording artists and songwriters. In addition, we anticipate that investment in or commercial relationships with technology companies will enable us to tailor our marketing efforts for established recording artists and songwriters by gaining valuable insight into consumer reactions to new releases. We regularly evaluate our recording artist and songwriter rosters to ensure that we remain focused on developing the most promising and profitable talent and are committed to maintaining financial discipline in the negotiation of our agreements with recording artists and songwriters.
Focus on Growth Markets to Position Us to Realize Upside from Incremental Penetration of Streaming. While the rapid growth of streaming has already transformed the music entertainment industry, streaming is still in relatively early stages, as significant opportunity remains in both developed markets and markets largely untapped by the adoption of paid streaming subscriptions. Some of our largest markets, such as the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and France, still lag Nordic countries in penetration of paid subscriptions and have room for future growth. In these markets, we will continue to increase our output of new releases and use data to more effectively target our marketing efforts. Less mature markets, such as China and Brazil, have large populations with relatively high smartphone penetration, and we are well placed to benefit from streaming tailwinds over the next several years with our local presence and extensive catalog.
Expand Global Presence with Investment in Local Music in Nascent Markets. We recognize that music is inherently local in nature, shaped by people and culture. In 2020, at least 80% of the 50 top-selling singles in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, and South Korea were performed by or featured local artists. In addition, at least 50% of the 50 top-selling singles in Sweden and Italy were performed by or featured local artists. One of our vital business functions is to help our recording artists and songwriters solve the complexities associated with a fragmented, global market of mixed musical tastes. We have found that investment in local music provides the best opportunity to understand these nuances, and we have made it a strategic priority to seek out investment opportunities in emerging markets. For example, we opened an office in the Middle East and North Africa region to prepare for the forecasted rise in smartphone penetration and projected uptake in digital music. These investments are made with the purpose of increasing our understanding of local market dynamics and popularizing our current roster of recording artists and songwriters around the world.
Embrace Commercial Innovation with New Digital Distributors and Partners. We believe the growth of digital formats will continue to create new and powerful ways to distribute and monetize our music. We were the first major music company to strike
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landmark deals with important companies such as Apple, YouTube, Peloton, Twitch and Tencent Music Entertainment Group, as well as with pure-play music technology companies such as MixCloud, SoundCloud and Audiomack. We believe that the continued development of new digital channels for the consumption of music and increasing access to digital music services present significant promise and opportunity for the music entertainment industry. We are also focused on investing in emerging music technologies, demonstrated by our launch of WMG Boost, a seed-stage investment fund for start-ups in the music entertainment industry and through partnerships with entrepreneurial incubators such as TechStars. We intend to continue to extend our technological reach by executing deals with new partners and developing optimal business models that will enable us to monetize our music across various platforms, services and devices. We also intend to continue to support and invest in emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, artificial reality, virtual reality, high-resolution audio and other technologies to continue to build new revenue streams and position ourselves for long-term growth. We also intend to continue to support and invest in emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, artificial reality, virtual reality, high-resolution audio, mobile messaging and other technologies to continue to build new revenue streams and position ourselves for long-term growth.
Pursue Acquisitions to Enhance Asset Portfolio and Long-Term Growth. We have successfully completed a number of strategic acquisitions, particularly in our Recorded Music business. Strengthening and expanding our global footprint provides us with insights on markets in which we can immediately capitalize on favorable industry trends, as evidenced by our acquisition of PLG in 2013. We also build upon our core competencies with additive and ancillary capabilities. For example, our acquisition of UPROXX, one of the most influential media brands for youth culture, not only provides a platform for short-form music and music-based video content production to market and promote our recording artists, but also includes sales capabilities to monetize advertising inventory on digital audio and video platforms. We plan to continue selectively pursuing acquisition opportunities while maintaining financial discipline to further improve our growth trajectory and drive operating efficiencies with increased free cash flow generation. With respect to our Music Publishing business, we have the opportunity to generate significant value by acquiring other music publishers and extracting cost savings (as acquired catalogs can be administered with little incremental cost), as well as by increasing revenues through more aggressive monetization efforts. We will also continue to evaluate opportunities to add to our catalog or acquire or make investments in companies engaged in businesses that we believe will help to advance our strategies.
Recorded Music (86%, 85% and 86% of consolidated revenues, before intersegment eliminations, for each of the fiscal years ended September 30, 2021, September 30, 2020 and September 30, 2019, respectively)
Our Recorded Music business primarily consists of the discovery and development of recording artists and the related marketing, promotion, distribution, sale and licensing of music created by such recording artists. We play an integral role in virtually all aspects of the recorded music value chain from discovering and developing talent to producing, distributing and selling music to marketing and promoting recording artists and their music.
In the United States, our Recorded Music business is conducted principally through our major record labels—Atlantic Records and Warner Records. In October 2018, we launched Elektra Music Group in the United States as a standalone label group, which comprises the Elektra, Fueled by Ramen and Roadrunner labels. Our Recorded Music business also includes Rhino Entertainment, a division that specializes in marketing our recorded music catalog primarily through reissuances of previously released music and video titles and releasing previously unreleased material from our vault. Our Recorded Music business also includes Rhino Entertainment, a division that specializes in marketing our recorded music catalog through compilations, reissuances of previously released music and video titles and releasing previously unreleased material from our vault. We also conduct our Recorded Music business through a collection of additional record labels including Asylum, Big Beat, Canvasback, East West, Erato, FFRR, Nonesuch, Parlophone, Reprise, Sire, Spinnin’ Records, Warner Classics and Warner Music Nashville.
Outside the United States, our Recorded Music business is conducted through various subsidiaries, affiliates and non-affiliated licensees. Internationally, we engage in the same activities as in the United States: discovering and signing artists and distributing, selling, marketing and promoting their music. In most cases, we also market, promote, distribute and sell the music of those recording artists for whom our domestic record labels have international rights. In certain smaller markets, we license the right to distribute and sell our music to non-affiliated third-party record labels.
Our Recorded Music business’ distribution operations include WEA Corp., which markets, distributes and sells music and video products to retailers and wholesale distributors; Alternative Distribution Alliance (“ADA”), which markets, distributes and sells the products of independent labels to retail and wholesale distributors; and various distribution centers and ventures operated internationally.
In addition to our music being sold in physical retail outlets, our music is also sold in physical form to online physical retailers, such as amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and bestbuy.com, and distributed in digital form to an expanded universe of digital partners, including streaming services such as those of Amazon, Apple, Deezer, SoundCloud, Spotify, Tencent Music Entertainment Group and YouTube, radio services such as iHeart Radio and SiriusXM and download services.
We have diversified our revenues beyond our traditional businesses by entering into expanded-rights deals with recording artists in order to partner with such artists in other aspects of their careers. Under these agreements, we provide services to and participate in recording artists’ activities outside the traditional recorded music business such as touring, merchandising and sponsorships. We have built and acquired artist services capabilities and platforms for marketing and distributing this broader set of
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music-related rights and participating more widely in the monetization of the artist brands we help create. We believe that entering into expanded-rights deals and enhancing our artist services capabilities in areas such as merchandising, VIP ticketing, fan clubs, concert promotion and management has permitted us to diversify revenue streams and capitalize on other revenue opportunities. This provides for improved long-term relationships with our recording artists and allows us to more effectively connect recording artists and fans.
A&R
We have a decades-long history of identifying and contracting with recording artists who become commercially successful. Our ability to select recording artists who are likely to be successful is a key element of our Recorded Music business’ strategy and spans all music genres and all major geographies and includes recording artists who achieve national, regional and international success. We believe that this success is directly attributable to our experienced global team of A&R executives, to the longstanding reputation and relationships that we have developed in the artistic community and to our effective management of this vital business function.
In the United States, our major record labels identify potentially successful recording artists, sign them to recording contracts, collaborate with them to develop recordings of their work and market and sell or license these finished recordings to legitimate digital channels and retail stores. Increasingly, we are also expanding our participation in image and brand rights associated with artists, including merchandising and sponsorships. Our labels scout and sign talent across all major music genres, including pop, rock, jazz, classical, country, R&B, hip-hop, rap, reggae, Latin, alternative, folk, blues, gospel and other Christian music. Internationally, we market and sell U.S. and local repertoire through our network of subsidiaries, affiliates and non-affiliated licensees. With a roster of local recording artists performing in various local languages throughout the world, we have an ongoing commitment to developing local talent aimed at achieving national, regional or international success.
Many of our recording artists continue to appeal to audiences long after we cease to release their new music. We have an efficient process for sustaining sales across our catalog releases. Relative to our new releases, we spend lesser amounts on marketing for our catalog.
We maximize the value of our catalog of recorded music through our Rhino Entertainment business unit and through activities of each of our record labels. We use our catalog as a source of material for re-releases, box sets and special package releases, which provide consumers with incremental exposure to familiar music and recording artists. We use our catalog as a source of material for re-releases, compilations, box sets and special package releases, which provide consumers with incremental exposure to familiar music and recording artists. Rhino Entertainment also releases new music from legacy recording artists and markets and promotes the name and likeness of certain artist estates and brands.
Recording Artists’ Contracts
Our recording artists’ contracts define the commercial relationship between our recording artists and our record labels. We negotiate recording contracts with recording artists that define our rights to use the recording artists’ music. In accordance with the terms of the contract, the recording artists receive royalties based on sales and other uses of such recording artists’ music. We customarily provide up-front payments to recording artists called advances, which are recoupable by us from future royalties otherwise payable to such recording artists. We also typically pay costs associated with the recording and production of music, which in certain countries are treated as advances recoupable by us from future royalties. Our typical contract for a new recording artist covers a sufficient number of master recordings to constitute a single initial extended-play record (known as an EP) or an album and provides us with a series of options to acquire subsequent albums from the artist. Royalty rates and advances are often increased for subsequent albums for which we have exercised our options. Many of our contracts contain a commitment from the record label to fund video production costs, at least a portion of which in certain countries is treated as advances recoupable by us from future royalties.
Our recording contracts with established artists generally provide for greater advances and higher royalty rates. Typically, such contracts entitle us to fewer albums, and, of those, fewer are optional albums. In contrast to new artists’ contracts, which, with certain territorial or other exceptions, customarily give us ownership in the artist’s work for the full term of the copyright or a long-term exclusive license, established artists’ contracts more commonly provide us with an exclusive license for some fixed period of time. It is not unusual for us to renegotiate contract terms with a successful artist during the term of their existing contracts, sometimes in return for an increase in the number of albums that the artist is required to deliver.
With certain territorial or other exceptions, our recording contracts with new artists typically grant us ownership in the artist’s work for the full term of copyright or a long-term exclusive license.With certain territorial or other exceptions, our recording contracts typically grant us ownership for the duration of copyright. See “—Intellectual Property—Copyrights.” United States copyright law permits authors or their estates to terminate an assignment or license of copyright (for the United States only) after a set period of time in certain circumstances. See “Risk Factors—We face a potential loss of catalog to the extent that our recording artists have a right to recapture rights in their recordings under the U.S. Copyright Act.”
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We are also continuing to transition to other forms of business models with recording artists to adapt to changing industry conditions. Many of the recording contracts we currently enter into are expanded-rights deals, in which we share in the touring, merchandising, sponsorship, fan club or other ancillary music revenues associated with those artists.
Marketing and Promotion
Our approach to marketing and promoting our recording artists and their music is comprehensive. Our goal is to maximize the likelihood of success for new releases as well as to stimulate the success of catalog releases. We seek to increase the value of music and help our recording artists connect with their fans.
The marketing and promotion of recorded music is carefully coordinated to create the greatest sales momentum, while maintaining financial discipline. We have significant experience in our marketing and promotion departments, which we believe allows us to achieve an optimal balance between our marketing expenditure and the eventual sales of our artists’ recordings. We use a budget-based approach to plan marketing and promotions, and we monitor all expenditures related to each release to ensure compliance with the agreed-upon budget. These planning processes are regularly evaluated based on updated sales reports, streaming service data and radio airplay data, so that a promotion plan can be quickly adjusted if necessary.
Manufacturing, Packaging and Physical Distribution
We have arrangements with various suppliers and distributors as part of our manufacturing, packaging and physical distribution services throughout the world. We believe that our manufacturing, packaging and physical distribution arrangements are sufficient to meet our business needs.
Sales and Digital Distribution
We generate revenues from the new releases of current artists and our catalog of recordings. In addition, we actively repackage music from our catalog to form new releases. In addition, we actively repackage music from our catalog to form new compilations. Our revenues are generated in digital formats including streaming and downloads, CD format, as well as through historical formats, such as vinyl albums.
In connection with the digital distribution of our music, we currently partner with a broad range of digital music services, such as Amazon, Apple, Deezer, KKBox, Spotify, Telefonica, Tencent Music Entertainment Group, YouTube and Google, and are actively seeking to develop and grow our digital business. We also sell traditional physical formats through both the online distribution arms of traditional retailers such as target.com and walmart.com and traditional online physical retailers such as amazon.com, bestbuy.com and barnesandnoble.com. Streaming services stream our music on an ad-supported or paid subscription basis. In addition, downloading services download our music on a per-album or per-track basis. In digital formats, per-unit costs related directly to physical products such as manufacturing, distribution, inventory and return costs do not apply. While there are some digital-specific variable costs and infrastructure investments needed to produce, market and license digital products, it is reasonable to expect that we will generally derive a higher contribution margin from streaming and downloads than from physical sales. We sell our physical recorded music products through a variety of different retail and wholesale outlets including music specialty stores, general entertainment specialty stores, supermarkets, mass merchants and discounters, independent retailers and other traditional retailers. Although some of our retailers are specialized, many of our customers offer a substantial range of products other than music.
Most of our physical sales represent purchases by a wholesale or retail distributor. Our sale and return policies are in accordance with wholesaler and retailer requirements, applicable laws and regulations, territory and customer-specific negotiations and industry practice. We attempt to minimize the return of unsold product by working with retailers to manage inventory and SKU counts as well as by monitoring shipments and sell-through data.
We enter into license agreements with digital music services to make our music available for access in digital formats (e.g., streaming and downloads). We then provide digital assets for our music to these services in an accessible form. Our license agreements with these services establish our fees for the distribution of our music, which vary based on the service. We typically receive accounting from these services on a monthly basis, detailing the distribution activity, with payments rendered on a monthly basis. Our license agreements with digital music services generally last one to three years. In fiscal year 2021, Recorded Music revenue earned under our license agreements with our top three digital music accounts, Spotify, Apple and YouTube, accounted for approximately 45% of our Recorded Music revenues. In fiscal year 2020, Recorded Music revenue earned under license agreements with our top two digital music accounts, Apple and Spotify, accounted for approximately 34% of our total revenues.
Since the emergence of digital formats, our business has become less seasonal in nature and driven more by the timing of our releases.
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Music Publishing (14%, 15% and 14% of consolidated revenues, before intersegment eliminations, for each of the fiscal years ended September 30, 2021, September 30, 2020 and September 30, 2019, respectively)
While Recorded Music is focused on marketing, promoting, distributing and licensing a particular recording of a musical composition, Music Publishing is an intellectual property business focused on generating revenue from uses of the musical composition itself. In return for promoting, placing, marketing and administering the creative output of a songwriter, or engaging in those activities for other rightsholders, our Music Publishing business shares the revenues generated from use of the musical compositions with the songwriter or other rightsholders. In return for promoting, placing, marketing and administering the creative output of a songwriter, or engaging in those activities for other rightsholders, our Music Publishing business garners a share of the revenues generated from use of the musical compositions.
The operations of our Music Publishing business are conducted principally through Warner Chappell Music, our global music publishing company headquartered in Los Angeles, and through various subsidiaries, affiliates, and non-affiliated licensees and sub-publishers. We own or control rights to more than one million musical compositions, including numerous pop hits, American standards, folk songs and motion picture and theatrical compositions. Assembled over decades, our award-winning catalog includes over 100,000 songwriters and composers and a diverse range of genres including pop, rock, jazz, classical, country, R&B, hip-hop, rap, reggae, Latin, folk, blues, symphonic, soul, Broadway, electronic, alternative and gospel. Warner Chappell Music also administers the music and soundtracks of several third-party television and film producers and studios. We have an extensive production music catalog collectively branded as Warner Chappell Production Music.
Music Publishing Royalties
Warner Chappell Music, as a copyright owner and administrator of musical compositions, is entitled to receive royalties for the use of musical compositions. We continually add new musical compositions to our catalog and seek to acquire rights in musical compositions that will generate substantial revenue over the long term.
Music publishers generally receive royalties pursuant to public performance, digital, mechanical, synchronization and other licenses. In the United States, music publishers collect and administer mechanical royalties, and statutory rates are established pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, as amended, for the royalty rates applicable to musical compositions for sale and licensing of recordings embodying those musical compositions. In the United States, public performance income is administered and collected by music publishers and their performing rights organizations and in most countries outside the United States, collection, administration and allocation of both mechanical and performance income are undertaken and regulated by governmental or quasi-governmental authorities. Throughout the world, each synchronization license is generally subject to negotiation with a prospective licensee and, by contract, music publishers pay a contractually required percentage of synchronization income to the songwriters or their heirs and to any co-publishers.
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Warner Chappell Music acquires copyrights or portions of copyrights and administration rights from songwriters or other third-party holders of rights in musical compositions. Typically, in either case, the grantor of rights retains a right to receive a percentage of revenues collected by Warner Chappell Music. As an owner and administrator of musical compositions, we promote the use of those musical compositions by others. For example, we encourage recording artists to record and include our musical compositions on their recordings, offer opportunities to include our musical compositions in filmed entertainment, advertisements and digital media and advocate for the use of our musical compositions in live stage productions. Examples of music uses that generate music publishing revenues include:
Performance: performance of the song to the general public
Broadcast of musical compositions on television, radio and cable
Live performance at a concert or other venue (e.g., arena concerts, nightclubs)
Broadcast of musical compositions at sporting events, restaurants or bars
Performance of musical compositions in staged theatrical productions
Digital: licensing of recorded music in various digital formats and digital performance of musical compositions to the general public
Streaming and download services
Mechanical: sale of recorded music in various physical formats
Vinyl, CDs and DVDs
Synchronization: use of the musical composition in combination with visual images
Films or television programs
Television commercials
Video games
Merchandising, toys or novelty items
Other:
Licensing of copyrights for use in printed sheet music
In the United States, mechanical royalties are collected directly by music publishers, from recorded music companies or via The Harry Fox Agency, a non-exclusive licensing agent affiliated with the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (“SESAC”), while outside the United States, mechanical royalties are collected directly by music publishers or from collecting societies. Once mechanical royalties reach the publisher, percentages of those royalties are paid or credited to the writer or other rightsholder of the copyright in accordance with the underlying rights agreement. Mechanical royalties are paid at a rate of 9.1 cents per song per unit in the United States for physical formats (e.g., CDs and vinyl albums) and permanent digital downloads (recordings in excess of five minutes attract a higher rate). There are also rates set for interactive streaming and non-permanent downloads based on a formula that takes into account revenues paid by consumers or advertisers with certain minimum royalties that may apply depending on the type of service. “Controlled composition” provisions contained in some recording contracts may apply to the rates mentioned above pursuant to which artist/songwriters license their rights to their record companies for as little as 75% of the statutory rates. The current U.S. statutory mechanical rates will remain in effect through December 31, 2022. In most other territories, mechanical royalties are based on a percentage of wholesale prices for physical formats and based on a percentage of consumer prices for digital formats. In international markets, these rates are determined by multi-year collective bargaining agreements and rate tribunals.
Throughout the world, performance royalties are collected by publishers directly or on behalf of music publishers and songwriters by performance rights organizations and collecting societies. Key performing rights organizations and collecting societies include: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (“ASCAP”), SESAC and Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”) in the United States; Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and The Performing Right Society in the United Kingdom; The German Copyright Society in Germany and the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Japan. The societies pay a percentage (which is set in each country) of the performance royalties to the copyright owner(s) or administrators (i.e., the publisher(s)), and a percentage directly to the songwriter(s), of the composition. Thus, the publisher generally retains the performance royalties it receives other than any amounts attributable to co-publishers.
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Composers’ and Lyricists’ Contracts
Warner Chappell Music derives its rights through contracts with composers, lyricists (songwriters) or their heirs and with third-party music publishers. In some instances, those contracts grant either 100% or some lesser percentage of copyright ownership in musical compositions and/or administration rights. In other instances, those contracts only convey to Warner Chappell Music rights to administer musical compositions for a period of time without conveying a copyright ownership interest. Our contracts grant us exclusive use rights in the territories concerned excepting any pre-existing arrangements. Many of our contracts grant us rights on a global basis. Warner Chappell Music customarily possesses administration rights for every musical composition created by the writer or composer during the exclusive acquisition term of the contract.
While the duration of the administration rights under contracts may vary, some of our contracts grant us ownership and/or administration rights for the duration of copyright. See “—Intellectual Property—Copyrights.” U.S. copyright law permits authors or their estates to terminate an assignment or license of copyright (for the United States only) after a set period of time. See “Risk Factors—We face a potential loss of catalog to the extent that our recording artists have a right to recapture rights in their recordings under the U.S. Copyright Act.”
Our Recording Artist and Songwriter Value Proposition
Our success is a function of attracting exceptional talent and helping them build long and lucrative careers. In an environment where music entertainment companies often fiercely compete to sign recording artists and songwriters, our ability to differentiate our core capabilities is crucial. We are constantly strengthening our skill sets, as well as evolving and expanding the comprehensive suite of services we provide. Our goal is not to be the biggest music entertainment company, but the best.
In the digital world, consumers have more than 70 million tracks at their fingertips, growing at a rate of approximately 60,000 songs per day. The sheer volume of music being released on digital music services is making it harder for recording artists and songwriters to stand out and get noticed. At the same time, music that is fresh and original is currently what resonates most strongly on digital music services. We believe our Recorded Music and Music Publishing businesses remain not just relevant, but essential to the booming music entertainment economy. Our proven ability to cut through the noise is more necessary and valuable than ever.
Below is an overview of the many creative and commercial services we provide our recording artists and songwriters. Our interests are aligned with theirs. By creating value for our recording artists and songwriters, we create value for ourselves. That philosophy is behind our current momentum, and we believe it will continue to propel our business into the future.
Welcoming Talent
We offer recording artists and songwriters numerous pathways into our ecosystem. Whether it is an up-and-coming songwriter making music in his or her bedroom, a breakout superstar recording artist selling out stadiums or an icon looking to curate a legacy, we offer the necessary support and resources.
We are not just searching for immediate hits. We scout and sign talent with the market potential for longevity and lasting impact. As a result, we are investing in more new music every year without losing our commitment to each recording artist and songwriter. It is that focus, patience and passion that has built and sustained the reputation that perpetuates our cycle of success.
Creative Partnership
Our A&R executives both champion and challenge the talent they sign, empowering them to realize their visions and evolve over time. Our longstanding relationships within the creative community also provide our recording artists and songwriters with a wide network of collaborators, which is a vital part of helping them to realize their best work. We provide the investment that gives our recording artists and songwriters the requisite time and space to experiment and flourish. This includes access to a multitude of songwriters’ rooms and recording studios around the globe with more to come.
Marketing and Promotional Firepower
We are experts in the art of amplification, with proven specialties in every aspect of marketing and promotion. From every meaningful digital music service and social media network to radio, press, film, television and retail, we are plugged into the most influential people and platforms for music entertainment. At the same time, by combining our collective experience with billions of transactions each and every week, we gather the insights needed to make meaningful commercial decisions grounded in data-based discipline. Most importantly, we quickly adapt to changes in how music is consumed to maximize the opportunities for our recording artists and songwriters. For example, we quickly honed our expertise in securing placement on playlists and other valuable positioning on digital music services.
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Global Reach and Local Expertise
As of September 30, 2021, we employed approximately 5,900 persons around the world. This means we can build local fan bases for international recording artists and songwriters, as well as supply the network to deliver worldwide fame. Our local strength fuels our global impact and vice versa. We employ a global priority system to provide as many recording artists as possible a genuine shot at success. Our approach combines a deep understanding of local cultures, with a close-knit, nimble team that is in constant communication around the world.
A Broad Universe of Opportunity
Albums, singles, videos and songs are still the primary drivers for our business. But as the demand for music has grown, music has been woven into the fabric of our daily lives in new and increasingly sophisticated ways. It is our job to help our recording artists and songwriters capitalize on this expanding universe.
In our Recorded Music business, beyond digital and physical revenue streams, we provide a wide array of artist services, including merchandise, e-commerce, VIP ticketing and fan clubs. In our Music Publishing business, we take an active role in expanding the consumption of music, through performance, digital, mechanical, synchronization and, the original music publishing revenue stream, sheet music. Last year, we launched a creative services team that is tasked with finding innovative ways to revitalize catalogs and create new possibilities for our songwriters.
In 2017, we launched a film and television unit and subsequently acquired additional video production capabilities in order to offer greater storytelling possibilities for our recording artists and songwriters.
The centralization of our technology capabilities and data insights has resulted in increased transparency of our royalty reporting to our recording artists and songwriters. We defend and protect our recording artists’ and songwriters’ creative output by remaining vigilant in the collection of different types of royalties around the world and defending against illegitimate and illegal uses of our owned and controlled copyrights.
Representative Sample of Recording Artists and Songwriters
Our Recorded Music business includes music from:
Global superstars such as Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Bruno Mars, Lizzo, Coldplay, Dua Lipa, Michael Bublé, Kelly Clarkson, David Guetta, Kenny Chesney, Madonna, Neil Young, Prince, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin and The Smiths.
Next-generation talent including Roddy Ricch, Saweetie, Tones and I, Justin Quiles, Burna Boy, Charli XCX, Jack Harlow, Bebe Rexha, Dan + Shay, Ashnikko, PinkPantheress and CKay.
International stars such as Anitta, Aya Nakamura, TWICE, Ava Max, Capo Plaza, Pablo Alborán, Udo Lindenberg and Laura Pausini.
Our Music Publishing business includes musical compositions by:
Superstars such as Madonna, William Corgan, Belly, Cardi B, Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak, Lizzo, Tones and I, Pablo Alborán, Lin Manuel Miranda, Chris Stapleton, Dan + Shay, Tayla Parx, Damon Albarn, Dave Mustaine and Kacey Musgraves.
International talent such as Jonathan Lee, Tia Ray, Manuel Medrano, Melendi, Bausa, Shy’m, Tove Lo and Jack & Coke.
Songwriting icons like Cole Porter, Grateful Dead, Quincy Jones, Marco Antonio Solís, Eric Clapton, Brody Brown, Liz Rose, Justin Tranter, busbee, The-Dream, Dr. Dre, Stephen Sondheim, George & Ira Gershwin and Gamble & Huff.
Competition
In our Recorded Music and Music Publishing businesses, we compete based on marketing (including both how we allocate our marketing resources as well as how much we spend on a dollar basis) and on recording artist and songwriter signings. We believe we currently compete favorably in these areas.
Our Recorded Music business is also dependent on technological development, including access to, selection and viability of new technologies, and is subject to potential pressure from competitors as a result of their technological developments. Additionally,
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we compete, to a lesser extent, for disposable consumer income with alternative forms of entertainment, content and leisure activities, such as cable and satellite television, motion pictures and video games in physical and digital formats.
The recorded music industry is highly competitive based on consumer preferences and is rapidly changing. At its core, the recorded music business relies on artistic talent. As such, competitive strength is predicated upon the ability to continually develop and market new recording artists whose work gains commercial acceptance. According to Music & Copyright, in 2020, the three largest recorded music companies were Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and us, which collectively accounted for approximately 68% of global recorded music revenues. There are many mid-sized and smaller players in the industry that accounted for the remaining approximately 32%, including independent recorded music companies. Universal Music Group was the market leader with an approximately 32% global market share in 2020 after absorbing the bulk of the recorded music assets of the former EMI in late 2012, followed by Sony Music Entertainment with an approximately 21% share. Universal Music Group was the market leader with an approximately 32% global market share in 2019 after absorbing the bulk of the recorded music assets of the former EMI in late 2012, followed by Sony Music Entertainment with an approximately 21% share. We held an approximately 16% share of global recorded music revenues in 2020.
The music publishing industry is also highly competitive. The three largest music publishing companies collectively accounted for approximately 59% of the global market in 2020 according to Music & Copyright. According to Music & Copyright, Sony Music Publishing was the market leader in music publishing in 2020 with an approximately 25% share (reflecting its ownership of the EMI music publishing assets). Universal Music Publishing was the second-largest music publisher with an approximately 23% share, followed by us at approximately 11%. Universal Music Publishing was the second-largest music publisher with an approximately 21% share, followed by us at approximately 12%. There are many mid-sized and smaller players in the industry that account for the remaining approximately 41%, including many individual songwriters who publish their own works.
Intellectual Property
Copyrights
Our business, like that of other companies involved in the music entertainment industry, rests on our ability to maintain rights in sound recordings and musical compositions through copyright protection. In the United States, copyright protection for works created as “works made for hire” (e.g., works of employees or certain specially commissioned works) on or after January 1, 1978 generally lasts for 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first. The period of copyright protection for works created on or after January 1, 1978 that are not “works made for hire” lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. Works created and published or registered in the United States prior to January 1, 1978 generally enjoy copyright protection for 95 years, subject to compliance with certain statutory provisions including notice and renewal. Additionally, the MMA extended federal copyright protection in the U.S. to sound recordings created prior to Febru