How did Warner Music Group perform in the pandemic year of 2020?

Dua Lipa was one of Warner Music Group's priority artists in calendar 2020

The MBW Review is where we aim our microscope towards some of the music biz’s biggest recent goings-on. This time, we drill into Warner Music Group‘s revenues across the pandemic-hit calendar year of 2020. The MBW Review is supported by Instrumental.


Warner Music Group released its latest quarterly results this week, and there was good news for the company’s CEO, Steve Cooper, and its shareholders.

Not least: Warner says that its turnover in calendar Q4 2020 (its fiscal Q1) represented its “highest quarterly revenue in history as a standalone company”.

WMG’s global recorded music revenues in the quarter were up 4.5% at constant currency YoY to $1.16bn. Within that, quarterly recorded music streaming revenues were up 17.5% to $692m, according to an SEC filing reviewed by MBW.

But how did Warner Music Group fare across the full calendar year of 2020? A calendar year that presented a daunting pandemic-sized challenge for major music companies… and a calendar year that also saw WMG float on the NASDAQ?

MBW’s been digging in – with our calculator out – and we’re here to tell you.

In summary: Warner Music Group’s recorded music division saw its annual streaming revenue bound up by $290m in calendar 2020 vs.2019.

However, WMG’s total recorded music revenue – including streaming, but across all formats and activities – fell very slightly YoY at constant currency (-0.3%) to $3.89bn.

The overall Warner Music Group – across records, publishing, and other activities – saw its calendar year revenues flat vs. 2019 at $4.54bn.


Warner Music logo
Warner Music Group: Recorded Music revenues in calendar year 2020

First, the standout positive news: Warner’s recorded music streaming revenues were up 13.1% (+$290m) YoY to $2.51bn in calendar 2020. (Warner doesn’t provide a constant currency comparison for streaming $ in its filings.)

WMG’s global recorded music revenues in calendar 2020 dropped by $10m year-on-year at constant currency (-0.3%), according to MBW’s analysis of Warner SEC filings, to $3.89bn.

For those interested in such comparisons: Warner rival Sony‘s global recorded music streaming revenues were up 19.5% (+$467m) YoY to $2.87bn in calendar 2020.

Sony’s global recorded music revenues (including streaming and other formats) were up 8.1% in the year to $4.51bn.


Warner’s recorded music division saw a YoY drop in revenues in each of the first three quarters of the year, but a YoY rise of $50m in the final quarter of 2020.

WMG’s overall recorded music division suffered revenue declines in both physical music and ‘Artist Services and Expanded-Rights’ (including merchandise and ticketing). Both categories would have been hurt by the effects of the pandemic.



Warner Music logo
Warner Music Group: Total and publishing revenues in 2020

Warner Music Group’s overall revenues across the course of calendar 2020 – including records, publishing etc. – were almost exactly flat, up by $1m at constant currency on 2019 to $4.542bn.

WMG’s overall revenues followed the same pattern as its recorded music operation, with a YoY dip in revenues in the first three months of 2020, followed by a significant YoY bump (+$49m) in calendar Q4.

Within WMG’s results were the numbers of its publishing division, Warner Chappell Music.

Warner Chappell saw its annual revenues in calendar 2020 rise on calendar 2019, up by $9m (+1.4%) YoY.

The publishing company benefited from an especially significant increase in calendar Q1 when it posted $166m in revenues vs. $154m in the prior year (at constant currency).



The MBW Review is supported by Instrumental, which powers online scouting for A&R and talent teams within the music industry. Their leading scouting platform applies AI processes to Spotify and social data to unearth the fastest growing artists and tracks each day. Get in touch with the Instrumental team to find out how they can help power your scouting efforts.


Appendix: Music Business Worldwide is seeing increased interest in our work from the investment community. Welcome!

For those out there looking for source material for the above calculations, please see the below relevant snippets from Warner Music Group 8K SEC filings reporting the firm’s quarterly results for calendar 2020:


Warner Music Group: Calendar Q1 2020

Warner Music Group: Calendar Q2 2020

Warner Music Group: Calendar Q3 2020

Warner Music Group: Calendar Q4 2020

Music Business Worldwide

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