It’s taken two years to get over the line, but Universal Music Group has finally pledged to share with its recording artists the cash it generates from the sale of its Spotify stock.
The market leading music major will follow the lead of Warner Music and Sony Music Entertainment and distribute equity proceeds from Spotify, which last week filed to float on the New York Stock Exchange.
All three majors and Merlin, the digital rights agency which represents the independent music community, took equity in Spotify when the streaming service opened for business in 2008.
About 24 months ago, Warner and Sony committed to paying out a chunk of their Spotify stake, and the indie community would be rewarded through the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN)’s Fair Digital Deals Declaration. But UMG has kept shtum. Until now.
A Universal spokesperson broke the news to Music Business Worldwide with a brief statement: “Consistent with UMG’s approach to artist compensation, artists would share in the proceeds of a [Spotify] equity sale.”
MBW suggests UMG may have had its hands tied on declaring its position until Spotify confirmed the music industry’s worst-kept secret and set in motion its flotation plans, which it did last Wednesday (Feb 28) when it filed paperwork with the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).
The Sweden-originated music platform will trade under the symbol “SPOT” via an unconventional direct listing. Its 250-page prospectus makes for fascinating reading. In it, Spotify claimed it earned €4.09 billion in revenue in 2017, up more than 38 percent from the previous year, though losses spiralled to €1.235 billion from €535 million. Only one music company – Sony Music — owns more than 5% in Spotify, which is valued at about $20bn, according to multiple reports. If that headline figure is accurate, then Sony’s stake is worth more than $1bn.
The paperwork also illustrates the high level of concentration among content providers, with UMG, Sony, Warner and Merlin combining for approximately 87 percent of streams in 2017 and the company claimed it passed on more than €8 billion in royalties ($9.76 billion) to artists, music labels and publishers in the decade since launch.
Spotify boasted 159 million monthly active users at the end of 2017, with 71 million of those converted to premium subscriptions.
“Feels great to have the cat out of the bag,” tweeted Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek on March 1. “Transparency breeds trust.” Ek and his fellow co-founder Martin Lorentzon are poised to become billionaires following the listing.
Spotify has hired Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Allen & Co as financial advisers and the tech firm’s chief financial officer, who previously guided Netflix through an IPO, will host an online investor day on March 15, the FT reports.