How Universal Music Group is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

At times of global crisis, any industry will naturally want to know how the largest company amongst its ranks is responding. Today (March 30), we learned what Universal Music Group – the world’s biggest music rightsholder – has set in place amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

In a note to employees and partners, UMG has clarified a number of steps it’s taken in response to Coronavirus, in what the company terms a “global commitment”.

MBW understands this initiative is costing UMG multiple millions of dollars, with more to be announced as time moves on.

One of the standout measures for the worldwide industry within UMG’s response comes in a note on ‘supporting our artists and songwriters’: UMG says that its labels and other entities, across publishing and independent distribution, are now offering interest-free royalty advances and waived fees to eligible artists, songwriters and independent labels in need.

In UMG’s words: “Our companies – including our labels, Universal Music Publishing Group, Universal Music Enterprises, Bravado as well as our independent distribution services – are offering various forms of assistance (such as interest-free royalty advances and fee waivers, among others) to help qualifying artists, songwriters and independent labels affected by COVID-19 weather these challenging times. We are also providing our artists with tools and platforms to reach fans and generate income when touring and other live appearances are not possible.”

Another key section of UMG’s response regards its support for both its own employees, and for the wider music community.

In addition to implementing programs to protect workers’ pay and offer enhanced benefits to these employees, Universal has launched the UMG All Together Now Foundation which, it says, will support employees who face “extraordinary needs”.

On top of this, UMG has launched All Together Now: Stay Connected, a philanthropic program to “support those in the music community most deeply impacted by the virus” in two ways:

  1.  Direct financial support from UMG to organizations such as MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund and Help Musicians UK that provide relief to impacted music workers; and
  2. Matching the contributions that our U.S. employees donate to qualifying charities.

The MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund was launched earlier this month. It has raised a multi-million dollar figure to help artists and industry figures hit by the effects of COVID-19, and in addition to UMG, those contributing funds have included Warner Music Group, Amazon Music, Pandora / SiriusXM, Spotify, TIDAL and YouTube Music.

OneRepublic (pictured) and UMG’s Interscope are providing a portion of proceeds from the streaming of new single Better Days to the MusiCares fund through September 2020.

In addition, Selena Gomez and Bravado are donating a portion of the proceeds from Gomez’s Dance Again merchandise.

The ‘tools and platforms’ UMG is offering to artists, MBW understands, include equipment, software and guidance to create professional audio and video content that can then be distributed across more than 400 digital platforms worldwide.

Other tools are designed to help UMG artists maximize streaming revenue and better engage with their fans across social media and direct-to-consumer opportunities.

UMG has already helped facilitate a number of live streams by its artists, the vast majority of which, we’re told, have intended to raise money and awareness for organizations combating COVID-19 and/or assisting those most impacted.

Universal’s note today adds: “UMG’s artists and songwriters are giving their time, energy and resources to help all those affected by the pandemic, including making financial commitments to supporting a range of organizations. And whether it’s a special performance, a new song, a helpful message or something else, UMG is backing numerous artist and songwriter initiatives to help those in need. You can find the growing list of artists and their initiatives here.”

MBW understands that London-based Universal Music UK has, in addition to support given to staff, agreed to expedite payments to all smaller suppliers (including video producers, photographers, stylists etc.) – resulting in a rush of payments for all approved invoices.

Universal Music UK is also making good on payments to freelance musicians and crew for any future tour and/or recording sessions that were due to take place before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Universal Music Group CEO & Chairman, Sir Lucian Grainge, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, and was consequently admitted to Los Angeles’ UCLA Medical Center.Music Business Worldwide

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