Universal: We WILL share Spotify money with artists when we sell our stock in streaming platform

It’s the news the industry has been waiting 24 months to hear: Universal Music Group has confirmed to MBW that it will share with its artists the money it generates from the sale of its Spotify stock.

Two years ago, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment publicly announced their commitment to hand a chunk of their respective Spotify equity proceeds to artists.

But there has been no word from Universal on the matter – until now.

A Universal spokesperson confirmed the news to MBW today with a simple statement: “Consistent with UMG’s approach to artist compensation, artists would share in the proceeds of a [Spotify] equity sale.”

Sources close to Vivendi-owned UMG suggest it may have been corporately restricted from making a hypothetical public statement on the matter until Spotify officially confirmed its intention to float on the New York Stock Exchange.

The streaming platform did so last Wednesday (Feb 28) via an F-1 filing with the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

That filing revealed that only one major music group, Sony Music, currently owns a shareholding of more than 5% in Spotify.

According to the document, Sony controls a 5.7% share in Spotify which – if valuations putting the streaming service at $20bn are accurate – is worth more than $1bn.

“Consistent with UMG’s approach to artist compensation, artists would share in the proceeds of a [Spotify] equity sale.”

Universal spokesperson

It was a surprise to many that Sony owned a bigger portion of shares in Spotify than Universal.

Sources close to UMG tell MBW that the Sir Lucian Grainge-led major has not, to date, sold any of its shares in Daniel Ek‘s company during private trades.

This suggests that Sony may have strengthened its position in Spotify by purchasing further shares in the company after receiving its initial allocation as part of licensing agreements.

All three major labels, in addition to Merlin, have received equity in Spotify since the platform launched in 2008.

These stakes are thought to have been commensurate with each party’s global market share.

Spotify’s F-1 document revealed that between them, Universal, Sony, Warner and Merlin claimed the recorded rights to 87% of streams hosted on the platform in 2017.

In February 2016, Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper confirmed that his company was committed to sharing proceeds from a Spotify stock sale with its artists.

Said Cooper: “[We own] equity stakes in some streaming services for which we have not paid. Although none of these equity stakes have been monetized since we implemented our breakage policy, today we are confirming that in the event we do receive cash proceeds from the sale of these equity stakes, we will also share this revenue with our artists on the same basis as we share revenue from actual usage and digital breakage.”

Later the same day, a Sony Music spokesperson told MBW: ““As we have previously shared with our artists and their representatives, net proceeds realized by Sony Music from the monetization of equity interests that were provided to Sony Music as part of the consideration for a digital license will be shared with our artists on a basis consistent with our breakage policy.”

The independent community, represented by Merlin, have also committed to paying artists a slice of their shared Spotify stake via the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN)’s Fair Digital Deals Declaration.

Signed by over 1,000 indie labels, the FDDD promises to ‘account to artists a good-faith pro-rata share of any revenues and other compensation from digital services that stem from the monetisation of recordings’.Music Business Worldwide

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