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Warner Music Group
Warner Music Group

Warner Music Group Inc. (WMG), also known as Warner Music, is an American multinational entertainment and record label conglomerate headquartered in New York City. It is one of the "big three" recording companies and the third largest in the global music industry, after Universal Music Group (UMG) and Sony Music Entertainment (SME). Formerly part of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia), the company was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange until May 2011, when it announced its privatization and sale to Access Industries, which was completed in July 2011. With a multibillion-dollar annual turnover, WMG employs more than 3,500 people and has operations in more than 50 countries throughout the world.[3]

The company owns and operates some of the largest and most successful labels in the world, including Elektra Records, Warner Records, Parlophone, and Atlantic Records. WMG also owns Warner Chappell Music, one of the world's largest music publishers.

Since August 2, 2018, WMG has expanded its business to digital media operation through its acquisition of Uproxx.

History


The film studio Warner Bros. had no record label division at the time one of its contracted actors, Tab Hunter, scored a No. 1 hit song in 1957 for Dot Records, a division of fellow Paramount Pictures. In order to prevent any repetition of its actors recording for rival companies, and to also capitalize on the music business, Warner Bros. Records was created in 1958.[4][5] In 1963, Warner purchased Reprise Records, which had been founded by Frank Sinatra three years earlier so that he could have more creative control over his recordings.[6] With the Reprise acquisition, Warner gained the services of Mo Ostin, who was mainly responsible for the success of Warner/Reprise.[7]

After Warner Bros. was sold to Seven Arts Productions in 1967 (forming Warner Bros.-Seven Arts), it purchased Atlantic Records, founded in 1947 and WMG's oldest label (until WMG completed its acquisition of Parlophone in 2013), as well as its subsidiary Atco Records. This acquisition brought Neil Young into the company fold, initially as a member of Buffalo Springfield. Young became one of Warner's longest-established artists, recording both as a solo artist and with groups under the Warner-owned Atlantic, Atco, and Reprise labels, as well as making five albums for Geffen Records during that label's period of Warner distribution. The Geffen catalogue, now owned by Universal Music Group, represents Young's only major recordings not under WMG ownership.

Atlantic, its subsidiary Atco Records, and its affiliate Stax Records paved the way for Warner's rise to industry prominence. The purchase brought in Atlantic's lucrative back-catalogue, which included classic recordings by Ray Charles, the Drifters, the Coasters, and many more. In the mid 1960s, Atlantic/Stax had released a string of landmark soul music recordings by artists including Booker T & the MGs, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Ben E. King, and Aretha Franklin. But the sale led to Stax leaving the Atlantic fold because the new Warner owners insisted on keeping the rights to Stax recordings. However, Atlantic also moved decisively into rock and pop in the late 1960s and 1970s, signing major British and American acts including Led Zeppelin, Cream, Crosby Stills & Nash, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Average White Band, Dr John, King Crimson, Bette Midler, Roxy Music, and Foreigner.

In 1969, two years after being purchased by Seven Arts, the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts company was sold to the Kinney National Company. In the middle of 1972 Kinney Music Of Canada, Ltd. was renamed to WEA Music of Canada, Ltd. a.k.a. WEA Musique du Canada, Ltée in French as the new Canadian branch of the WEA (Warner, Elektra, Atlantic) company - a division of Warner Communications Inc. The Founder and President Ken Middleton ran the Canadian Company until his retirement in 1982. The name remained until 1989, when in 1990, it became Warner Music Canada Ltd - a subsidiary of the US-based Warner Music International. Kinney CEO Steve Ross led the group through its most successful period until his death in 1992.

An earlier attempt by Warner Bros.

It was soon apparent in 1969 that Atlantic/Atco president Ahmet Ertegün viewed Warner/Reprise president Mike Maitland as a rival. Maitland believed that, as vice-president in charge of the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts music division, he should have final say over all recording operations, and he further angered Ertegün by proposing that most of Atlantic's back-office functions (such as marketing and distribution) be combined with the existing departments at Warner/Reprise. In retrospect Ertegün clearly feared that Maitland would ultimately have more power than him, and so he moved rapidly to secure his own position and remove Maitland.

Maitland had put off renegotiating the contracts of Joe Smith and Mo Ostin, the presidents of the Warner Bros.

In 1969, the wisdom of Hyman's investments was proved when Kinney National Company purchased Warner Bros.-Seven Arts for $400 million, more than eight times what Hyman had paid for Warner/Reprise and Atlantic combined. From the base of his family's funeral parlour business, Kinney president Steve Ross had rapidly built the Kinney company into a profitable conglomerate with interests that included comic publishing, the Ashley-Famous talent agency, parking lots and cleaning services. Following the takeover, Warners' music group briefly adopted the 'umbrella' name Kinney Music, because U.S. anti-trust laws at the time prevented the three labels from trading as one.

Ross was primarily focused on rebuilding the company's ailing movie division and was happy to defer to the advice of the managers of the company's record labels, since he knew that they were generating most of the group's profits.

As he had with Hyman, Ertegun urged Steve Ross to extend Mo Ostin and Joe Smith's contracts, a recommendation Ross was happy to accept.

Unlike the Warner/Reprise executives, Atlantic's execs the Ertegun brothers (Ahmet and Neshui) and Wexler owned stock in Kinney.[10]

Ostin was understandably concerned that, if he accepted the position, the Warner Bros.

During the 1970s, the Kinney group built up a commanding position in the music industry.

With the Elektra acquisition, the next step was forming an in-house distribution arm for the co-owned labels.

WEA was an early champion of heavy metal rock music. Several such bands, including three major British pioneers Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, were all signed to WEA's labels, at least in the United States. Among the earliest American metal acts to be signed to WEA were Alice Cooper, Montrose, and Van Halen.

Up to this point the Kinney-owned record companies had relied on licensing deals with overseas record labels to manufacture, distribute and promote its products in other countries; concurrent with the establishment of its new distribution arm, the company now began establishing subsidiaries in the other major markets, beginning with the creation of Warner Bros.

On July 1, 1971, following the pattern set by similar joint ventures in Canada and Australia, the Warner labels entered into a partnership with the British arm of CBS Records to press and distribute Warner-Reprise product in the United Kingdom, although this was undertaken as a cooperative venture rather than a formally incorporated business partnership. The Billboard article that reported the new arrangement also noted that, despite their intense competition in the US market, CBS continued to press Warner-Reprise recordings in the US. However the new UK arrangement was a major blow to Warner's previous British manufacturer Pye Records, for whom Warner-Reprise had been their largest account. With the scheduled addition of the UK rights to the Atlantic catalogue, which would revert to Kinney in early 1972, Billboard predicted that the Warner-CBS partnership would have a 25–30% share of the UK music market.[17]

In April 1971, thanks mainly to the influence of Ahmet Ertegun, the Kinney group announced a major coup with its acquisition of the worldwide rights to the Rolling Stones' new label Rolling Stones Records, following the expiration of the band's contract with British Decca (then separate from the American label) and the acrimonious end to their business relationship with their former manager Allen Klein. Under the terms of the deal, Atlantic subsidiary Atco would distribute the Stones' recordings in the US, with other territories mainly handled by Warner Bros. international divisions.[18]

One of Kinney's wisest investments was Fleetwood Mac. The band signed to Reprise in the early 1970s after relocating to the US and the label supported them through numerous lineup changes and several lean years during which the band's records sold relatively poorly, although they remained a popular concert attraction. Ironically, after their transfer to Warner Bros. in 1975 and the recruitment of new members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, the group scored a major international hit with the single "Rhiannon" and consolidated with the best selling albums Fleetwood Mac, Rumours and Tusk

Due to a financial scandal involving price fixing in its parking operations, Kinney National spun off its non-entertainment assets in 1972 (as National Kinney Corporation) and changed its name to Warner Communications Inc..[19]

In 1972, the Warner group acquired another rich prize, David Geffen's Asylum Records. The $7 million purchase brought in several acts which proved crucial to the Warner group's subsequent success, including Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and later Warren Zevon. On the downside, however, it was rumored that Warners was soon concerned about their possible liability under the California State Labor Code because of Geffen's questionable status as both the manager of most of the Asylum acts and the head of the record label to which they were signed. The sale included the Asylum Records label and its recordings, as well as Geffen's lucrative music publishing assets and the interests in the royalties of some of the artists managed by Geffen and partner Elliot Roberts. Geffen accepted a five-year contract with WCI and turned over his 75% share in the Geffen-Roberts management company to Roberts and Warners paid Geffen and Roberts 121,952 common shares worth $4,750,000 at the time of the sale, plus $400,000 in cash and a further $1.6 million in promissory notes convertible to common stock.[20]

Although it seemed a lucrative deal at the time, Geffen soon had reason to regret it.

In 1976, Warner gained a brief early lead in digital media when it purchased the Atari computer company, and in 1981 it bought The Franklin Mint company. WCI also blazed the trail in visual music with MTV, which it created and co-owned in partnership with American Express. In 1984–85, Warner rapidly divested many of these recent acquisitions, including Atari, Franklin Mint, Panavision, MTV Networks and a cosmetics business.

In 1977, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic formed Pacific Records for their composers and distributed (appropriately) by Atlantic Records. Alan O'Day was the first artist signed to the label, and the first release was "Undercover Angel". The song, which he described as a "nocturnal novelette," was in February 1977. Within a few months it had become #1 in the country, and has sold approximately two million copies. It was also a hit in Australia, reaching #9 on the Australian Singles Chart. "Undercover Angel" also landed O'Day in an exclusive club as one of only a handful of writers/performers to pen a #1 hit for themselves and a #1 for another artist.[22][23]

New signings in the late 1970s placed WEA in a strong position for the 1980s.

WEA's labels also distributed a number of otherwise independent labels.

A proposed 1983 international merger between PolyGram and WEA was forbidden by both the US Federal Trade Commission and West Germany's cartel office, so PolyGram's half-owner Philips then purchased a further 40% of the company from its partner Siemens, and bought the remaining shares in 1987. The same year, PolyGram divested its film and publishing operations, closed PolyGram Pictures and sold Chappell Music to Warner for US$275 million.

WEA formed WEA Manufacturing in 1986.[24] In 1988 WEA took over the German classical label Teldec and the British Magnet label.

In 1989, it was announced that Warner Communications was to merge with Time Inc. to form Time Warner, a transaction that was completed in 1990. Following the merger, WEA continued acquiring independent labels, buying CGD Records (Italy) and MMG Records (Japan) in 1989.

Through the 1990s, Time Warner was the largest media company in the world, with assets in excess of US$20 billion and annual revenues in the billions of dollars; by 1991, Warner's music labels were generating sales valued at more than US$3 billion, with operating profits of $550 million and by 1995 its music division dominated the US music industry with a 22% share of the domestic market.[6][26] Acquisitions and corporate changes within the Warner group of labels continued after the Time Warner merger—in 1990 WEA purchased French label Carrere Records, WEA was renamed Warner Music Group in 1991, leading French classical label Erato (1992) and in 1993 WEA bought the Spanish DRO Records, Hungary's Magneoton label, the Swedish Telegram Records, Brazil's Continental Records and Finnish label Fazer Musiikki.

Atlantic launched two new subsidiary labels in the early 1990s: East West Records and Interscope Records. In 1995, East West absorbed Atco Records and was eventually folded into Elektra Records. In 1996, Interscope was purchased by MCA Music Entertainment.

During 1992, the Warner Music Group faced one of the most serious public-relations crises in its history when a major controversy erupted over the provocative Warner Bros.

Also in 1992, the Rhino Records label signed a distribution agreement with Atlantic Records and Time Warner bought a 50% stake in the Rhino Records label. The distribution agreement allowed Rhino to begin reissuing recordings from Atlantic's back catalogue.

In 1994, Canadian beverage giant Seagram bought a 14.5% stake in Time Warner, and the Warner publishing division—now called Warner/Chappell Music – acquired CPP/Belwin, becoming the world's largest owner of song copyrights and the world's largest publisher of printed music. In 1996, Time Warner made another dramatic expansion of its media holdings, taking over the Turner Broadcasting System, which by then included the Turner cable TV network, CNN and the screen production houses Castle Rock Entertainment and New Line Cinema, acquisitions that brought huge profits into the Warner Group thanks to content assets like Seinfeld and the highly successful The Lord of the Rings

By the early 1990s, senior Warner staff like Ostin and Waronker had remained in their positions for several decades—a highly unusual situation in the American music industry—but the death of Steve Ross destabilized the Time Warner hierarchy, and over the next few years the music group was increasingly disrupted by internal power struggles, leading to a string of major executive upheavals in 1994–95, which The New York Times described as "a virtual civil war".[6]

The central conflict was between Mo Ostin and Warner Music Group chairman Robert Morgado, who had joined the Warner group in the late 1980s.

Since his appointment as head of WBR, Ostin had always reported directly to Steve Ross and Ross's successor Gerald Levin, but in late 1993, when Ostin's contract came up for renewal, Morgado asserted his authority, insisting that Ostin should now report directly to him. The tensions between them reached boiling point in July 1994 when Morgado appointed former Atlantic chief Doug Morris to head the Warner Music Group in the US, a decision that many saw as a deliberate move to hasten the departure of Ostin and Elektra head Robert Krasnow.[26] Morgado's new structure was announced in August 1994 and Bob Krasnow resigned from Elektra the next day. Within days, after more than 30 years with the Warner music group and more than 20 years as President and Chairman of Warner Bros. Records, Ostin announced he would not renew his current contract and would leave Warners when it expired on December 31, 1994. There was more negative publicity the following month, when leading Elektra act Metallica launched a lawsuit against the label, seeking a release from their contract and ownership of their master tapes, and claiming that Morgado had refused to honour a deal they had worked out with Krasnow before he quit.

Ostin's departure marked a seismic shift in the corporate culture at WBR and the news was greeted with dismay by industry insiders and the many artists whose careers he had helped to nurture.

Beginning in August 1994, Morgado alienated Morris by his clumsy handling of Warner's relationship with Interscope Records, the successful label founded by Ted Field and Jimmy Iovine and part-owned by Warner. Morgado had resisted making a decision about increasing the Warner stake in Interscope, which encouraged other companies to make overtures to the label; in response, Morgado threatened to send cease-and-desist notices to executives at several record companies, demanding that they stop approaching Interscope with buyout offers, a move that reportedly infuriated Iovine.[26]

By late 1994, Morris was gaining the upper hand over his rival and media reports claimed that Morris had moved to settle with Metallica, offering a deal that was reportedly even more generous than the one they had worked out with Krasnow.

Morgado gave in to the demand that Morris be granted autonomy to run the North American operations and he was forced to upgrade Morris's position from chief operating officer to Chief Executive of Warner Music Group (US); Morris promptly named Danny Goldberg, former president of Atlantic Records, to run WBR in defiance of Morgado, who had a different candidate in mind and Levin also reduced Morgado's power to oversee Warner's mail-order record club division and its international operations.[6][26] Morris then brought in Sylvia Rhone and Seymour Stein to stabilize Elektra, settled the Metallica lawsuit and persuaded Levin to purchase an additional 25% of Interscope, although this initiative proved short-lived.[26]

The power struggle between Morgado and Morris reached a dramatic climax in May 1995 when Morgado was asked to resign by Gerald Levin, following a welter of complaints from executives at the three major Warner Music labels, who said that Morgado was undermining Morris's authority and damaging Warner's reputation among performers.[6] Morgado was immediately replaced by HBO chairman Michael J. Fuchs but the corporate upheavals did not end there; in late June 1995 Fuchs abruptly dismissed Doug Morris, saying that Morris had been "leading a campaign to destabilize Warner Music in an effort to seize control of the company". As Morris's strongest ally, Danny Goldberg was also under threat; he was initially told that he could stay on as President of WBR as long as he refrained from office politics and concentrate on the day-to-day management of the label, but he resigned as President of Warner Bros. Records soon after to pursue "other interests", and was replaced by WBR vice-chairman Russ Thyret.

Despite early success with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and Morris's decision to increase Warner's stake to 50%, by the mid-1990s Interscope Records was being seen as a liability for the Warner group. Time Warner's board and investors had already been bruised by the damaging 1992 "Cop Killer" controversy and now they were faced with renewed criticism about the gangsta rap genre, in which Interscope's associate imprint Death Row Records was a key label. In mid-1995, Time Warner refused to distribute the Interscope album Dogg Food by Tha Dogg Pound, forcing the label to seek outside distribution, and late in the year TW sold its stake in Death Row back to co-owners Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field and soon after it sold off its share in Interscope to MCA Music Entertainment.[6]

The upheaval at Warner was beneficial to its rivals, who picked up valuable executives who had left Warner.

In 1998, Seagram boss Edgar Bronfman Jr. held talks aimed at merging Seagram's Universal Music, headed by Morris, with the venerable British recording company EMI, but the discussions came to nothing; Bronfman then oversaw Universal's takeover by Vivendi. WEA meanwhile continued to expand its publishing empire, buying a 90% stake in the Italian recording and music publishing group Nuova Fonit Cetra.

Also in 1998, Time Warner bought the remaining 50% of the Rhino Records label they did not own.

In 2000, Time Warner merged with leading American internet service provider AOL to create AOL Time Warner. The new conglomerate again tried (and failed) to acquire EMI, and subsequent discussions about the takeover of BMG stalled, with Bertelsmann eventually offloading BMG into a joint venture with Sony. In 2002, AOLTW further consolidated its hold over the publishing industry, buying 50% of music publisher Deston Songs from Edel AG. By the early 2000s, however, the effects of the dot-com crash had eroded AOL's profits and stock value, and in 2003 the Time Warner board sidelined its under-performing partner by dropping AOL from its business name.[37]

As a result of the CD price fixing issue, a settlement was reached in 2002 involving the music publishers and distributors; Sony Music, WMG, Bertelsmann Music Group, EMI Music, Universal Music. In restitution for price fixing they agreed to pay a $67.4 million fine and distribute $75.7 million in CDs to public and non-profit groups but admitted no wrongdoing.[38]

Looking to reduce its debt load, Time Warner—the corporate successor to Warner Communications—sold Warner Music Group in 2004 to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. for US$2.6 billion. This spinoff was completed on February 27, 2004. In the 2004 transition to independent ownership, WMG hired record industry heavyweight Lyor Cohen from Universal Music Group (the result of the merger between the PolyGram and MCA label families) to attempt to reduce cost and increase performance. Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) no longer retains any ownership in WMG, though it had the option to reacquire up to 20% of WMG for three years following the closing of the transaction. WMG did, however, have a royalty-free license to use the Warner Bros. shield for 15 years, as well as the old Warner Communications logo as WMG's main logo.[39] With the expiration of the royalty-free license on May 2019, Warner Bros. Records was renamed Warner Records and a new logo was introduced to replace the WB shield.[40]

Once free of Time Warner, WMG began cutting costs by offloading loss-making or low-earning divisions.

In 2005, the Miami-based Warner Bros. Publications, which printed and distributed a broad selection of sheet music, books, educational material, orchestrations, arrangements and tutorials, was sold to Alfred Music Publishing, although the sale excluded the print music business of WMG's Word Music (church hymnals, choral music and associated instrumental music).

On May 3, 2006, WMG apparently rejected a buyout offer from EMI.[41] Then WMG offered to buy EMI and it also rejected the offer. In August 2007, EMI was purchased by Terra Firma Capital Partners.[42] Talk of a possible WMG acquisition of EMI was fanned once again in 2009 after WMG executed a bond offering for $1.1 billion, which brought to light WMG's relatively strong financial position, which was contrasted with the weakened and debt-laden state of EMI.[43] The same year WMG acquired Rykodisc and Roadrunner Records.

On December 27, 2007, Warner announced that it would sell digital music without Digital Rights Management through AmazonMP3, making it the third major label to do so.[6] In 2008, The New York Times reported that WMG's Atlantic Records became the first major record label to generate more than half of its music sales in the U.S. from digital products.[6] In 2010, Fast Company magazine detailed the company's transformation efforts in its recorded music division, where it has redefined the relationships it has with artists and diversified its revenue streams through its expansion into growing areas of the music business.[46]

In 2007, Warner/Chappell sent a Cease and Desist letter to Walter Ritter, the creator of a freeware program called PearLyrics that was used to find lyrics of songs using the internet. In response to wide negative publicity, it subsequently apologized and offered to cooperate with him on the application. However, no subsequent overtures seem to have been made, and the software remains unavailable.[47]

In 2008, WMG, Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI, and several Indies (via Merlin) together with the Orchard licensed their full back catalogs to the new concept of Spotify in order to fight piracy with a legal way of music streaming.[48] However, in February 2010, WMG announced that it would no longer be licensing music for Spotify and other free streaming services, claiming that they were "clearly not positive for the industry".[49]

Due to licensing deal negotiations between Google and WMG in 2008, music video content licensed by WMG was removed from YouTube.[50][51] In 2009, it was announced that the companies had reached a deal, and videos would be re-added to YouTube.[52] As of 2017, WMG had extended its deal with YouTube.[53]

In 2009, Warner Music took over its South-East Asian and Korean distributions of EMI audio and video products, including newer domestic releases, which was announced in September 2008.

WMG formed a partnership with MTV Networks in June 2010 that allowed MTVN to exclusively sell ads on WMG's premium content; in turn, views of WMG videos would be counted as views for MTVN.[54] In August 2011, Stephen Cooper became CEO of Warner Music Group replacing Edgar Bronfman Jr., who became chairman of the company.[55] Bronfman Jr. stepped down as chairman of the company on January 31, 2012.[56]

In May 2011, WMG announced its sale to Access Industries, a conglomerate controlled by Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, for US$3.3 billion in cash.[57] The price represented $8.25 a share; a 34% premium over the six-month-before average price, and a 4% premium over the day-before price. Overall, this was a drop of over 70% since 2007.[58] According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal ended a three-month sale process in which as many as 10 bidders, including Los Angeles-based brothers Tom and Alec Gores, and Sony Corp. vied for the company.[59] Blavatnik was a shareholder and former board member of WMG at the time of the purchase announcement.[60] The purchase was completed on July 20, 2011 and the company became private.[61]

In 2013, Warner acquired longtime EMI division Parlophone, along with EMI Classics and some regional EMI labels, from UMG for £487 million (around $764.54 million US).[62][63] This news came after reports that WMG was in talks to acquire EMI's recorded music business, which was eventually bought by Universal.[6] The European Commission approved the sale in May 2013, and Warner closed the acquisition on July 1.[65][66] The EMI Classics roster was absorbed into Warner Classics and the Virgin Classics roster was absorbed into the revived Erato Records.[67] In November 2013, WMG paid Universal an additional €30 million for Parlophone, following an arbitration process in respect to the original sale price.[68]

In order to accommodate a deal made with IMPALA and the Merlin Network when it acquired Parlophone, WMG agreed to offload over $200 million worth in catalogues to various independent labels.[69] The labels had until February 28, 2014, to inform Warner Music of which artist catalogues they were interested in acquiring, and said artists had to approve of the divestments.[69] By March 2015, over 140 independent labels had placed bids on over 11,000 Warner Music artists valuing $6 billion, far higher than expectations.[71] In March 2016, Curb Records acquired Warner Music's 80% share of Word Entertainment, though WMG would continue to distribute the label.[72] In April 2016, the first confirmed sale of a Warner Music artist was the back catalogue of English band Radiohead to XL Recordings.[73] As of the end of May 2016, WMG had sold the catalogue of Chrysalis Records to Blue Raincoat Music, as well as the catalogues of ten other artists, including Everything But the Girl, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, and Lucinda Williams.[74][75][76][77] In September 2016, Nettwerk acquired the rights to albums by Guster and Airbourne from Warner Music.[78]

In April 2017, Warner Music agreed to sell the independent distributor Zebralution back to its founders.[79] On June 1, 2017, WMG divested additional artists, including the catalogues of Hot Chip and Buzzcocks to Domino Recording Company; Tom Waits to Anti-; and Howard Jones, Dinosaur Jr., and Kim Wilde to Cherry Red Records.[80] Cosmos Music Group acquired the rights to Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, while Neil Finn's catalogue moved to his Lester Records label.[81] On July 6, 2017, Because Music acquired 10 French artists, most of London Records' back catalogue, and The Beta Band, while Concord Music acquired albums by Jewel, Sérgio Mendes, REM, and several rock, blues, and jazz artists.[82][83][84][85] In August 2017, The Lemonheads and The Groundhogs were transferred to Fire Records.[86] In October 2017, Strut Records acquired albums by Patrice Rushen and Miriam Makeba.[87]

In November 2017, T.I.'s catalogue was reassigned to Cinq Music.[88] Woah Dad! acquired over 20 catalogues, including those of Ziggy Marley, Estelle, and several Swedish artists and Believe Digital acquired the rights to EMF and several French artists.[89] In April 2018, RT Industries acquired seven catalogues from WMG, including Sugar Ray and Fat Joe.[90] In May 2018, New State Music acquired the catalogues of Paul Oakenfold and Dirty Vegas.[91] Other winning bidders included The Echo Label (Thomas Dolby, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Supergrass), Nature Sounds (Roy Ayers), The State51 Conspiracy (Donovan), PIAS Recordings (Failure), Evolution Music Group (Mr. Big), Playground Music Scandinavia (Olle Adolphson), Metal Blade Records (King Diamond), Snapper Music (Mansun), Phoenix Music International (Lulu), Kobalt Label Services (HIM), and Tommy Boy Music (which reclaimed its pre-2002 catalogue and the rights to Brand Nubian, Grand Puba, and Club Nouveau). All the labels had to complete their deals by September 30, 2017; though a few announcements came after that date.[92]

In October 2012, WMG became one of the last major labels to sign with Google's music service.

In June 2013, WMG expanded into Russia by acquiring Gala Records, best known as the longtime distributor of EMI.[94] Later that year, Warner Music Russia agreed to locally distribute releases by Disney Music Group[95] and Sony Music.[96] Later that year, WMG closed a deal with Clear Channel Media that saw its artists paid for terrestrial radio play for the first time. Clear Channel would get preferential rates for streaming songs through its iHeartRadio service and other online platforms. It was believed that the agreement would put pressure on other big labels, including Sony and Universal, to reach similar deals.[97]

On November 14, 2013, it was determined that Warner Music's releases in the Middle East would be distributed by Universal Music as a result of the integration of EMI's branch in said region.[98] Sony Music India would assume distribution of WMG in India, Sri Lanka, and rest of SAARC countries except Bangladesh.[99] In December 2013, Warner Music began operating the wholly owned South African subsidiary after acquiring the Gallo's stakes that it did not own.[100] In April 2014, WMG announced that it had acquired Chinese record label Gold Typhoon.[101]

In April 2016, WMG agreed to distribute most of BMG Rights Management's catalogue worldwide through Warner's ADA division, though a few frontline releases would remain distributed by other labels.[102][103]

Around the end of May 2016, WMG acquired the Indonesian label PT Indo Semar Sakti.[104] Warner Music UK launched The Firepit in May 2016, a creative content division, innovation centre and recording studio located at their United Kingdom headquarters in London.[105] On June 2, 2016, Warner Music acquired Swedish compilation label X5 Music Group.[106]

On June 6, 2017, Warner Music Group launched a new division, Arts Music, which consists of labels for classical, jazz and children's music plus musical theatre and film scores, starting with a joint venture with Sh-K-Boom Records and transferring in Warner Classics.[107]

In September 2017, one week after acquiring American rock label Artery Recordings, WMG acquired the Dutch EDM label Spinnin' Records.[108] In February 2018, Warner Music launched a division in the Middle East, based in Beirut, Lebanon. Warner Music Middle East will cover 17 markets across North Africa and the Middle East.[109]

In January 2019, WMG signed a Turkish distribution deal with Doğan Media Group, which will represent the record company for physical and digital releases.[110]

In May 2019, Warner Music Finland acquired the hip-hop label Monsp Records.[111] In July 2019, Warner Music Slovakia acquired Forza Music, which owned the former state-owned label Opus Records.[112]

In July 2017, Warner Music acquired the concert discovery website Songkick.[113] In May, news media reported that Warner Music led an investment round in Hooch, a popular subscription-lifestyle application including blockchain-based payment technology.[114]

Announced on June 18, 2018 but effective on October 1, 2018, Warner Music Group launched Elektra Music Group as a stand-alone staffed music company with the labels Elektra Records, Fueled By Ramen, Low Country Sound, Black Cement, and Roadrunner Records. A handful of major artists would transfer from Atlantic. This returned the group back to the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA) triad that had for decades marked the original company organization.[115]

On August 2, 2018, Warner Music announced that it acquired Uproxx Media Group and its properties (except for BroBible, which will continue to publish independently) for an undisclosed sum, although Uproxx has raised around $43m (£33m) from previous investment, which provides some sense of the firm's valuation.[116]

In September 2018, WMG acquired German merchandise retailer EMP Merchandising from Sycamore Partners for $180 million.[117]

In October 2018, Warner Music Group announced the launch of the WMG Boost seed venture fund.[118]

Several labels of Warner Music moved into the Los Angeles Arts District in 2019 where the company had purchased a former Ford Motor Company assembly plant.[119]

Arts Music


Arts Music is Warner Music's umbrella division for classical, jazz and children's music plus musical theatre, soundtracks and film scores labels based in New York.

On June 6, 2017, Warner Music Group launched a new division, Arts Music, which consists of labels for classical, jazz and children's music plus musical theatre and film scores.

Arts Music signed a multi-year deal in November 2018 with Sesame Workshop to revive the Sesame Street Records label starting in early 2019.[120] In June 2019, WMG purchased First Night Record, musical theatre cast recording company, and place the company within Arts Music.[121] On June 24, 2019, the division launched the licensed Cloudco Entertainment label with the release of the current Holly Hobbie TV show theme song as a part of a multi-season deal.[122] Build-A-Bear Workshop teamed up with Arts Music and Warner Chappell Music in July 2019 to partner on the Build-A-Bear label with Patrick Hughes and Harvey Russell on board to guide the label.[123]

Music publishing


Warner Chappell Music dates back to 1811 and the creation of Chappell & Company, a sheet music and instrument merchant in London. In 1929, Jack L. Warner, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., founded Music Publishers Holding Company (MPHC) to acquire music copyrights as a means of providing inexpensive music for films and, in 1987, Warner Bros.' corporate parent, Warner Communications, acquired Chappell & Company from PolyGram. Its printed music operation, Warner Bros. Publications, was sold to Alfred Publishing on June 1, 2005.

Among the historic compositions of which the publishing rights are controlled by WMG are the works of Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In the 1930s and 1940s, Chappell Music also ran a profitable orchestration division for Broadway musicals, with house arrangers of the caliber of Robert Russell Bennett, Don Walker, Ted Royal and Hans Spialek. Between them they had orchestrated about 90% of the productions seento late 1941.[124]

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