Warner Music boss: ‘We’re the independent major’

stephencooperWarner Music Group CEO Steve Cooper has sent a telling year-end message to staff in which he clearly positions the company as “the independent major”.

MBW has obtained the note, in which Cooper also shows some teeth over the year-long free/freemium music debate.

“The demand for our art is undeniable, but we need to make sure that demand translates into real reward,” he writes.

Warner recently announced its full year figures for FY 2015.

Its results were hurt by the strong US dollar, but revenues grew 6% to $2.966bn – as streaming income overtook download.

You can read Steve Cooper’s memo in full below.


Every day at WMG, we bring together art and commerce. That’s a high-wire balancing act, but this year we performed it brilliantly, delivering extraordinary music and outstanding results.

We found artists who took music in a new direction. We turned success into super-stardom. We changed culture with songs that will live for decades. Not only that, we became the first major music company where streaming is the primary source of digital revenue; proof that we are leading our industry into the future.

These achievements are a direct result of your hard work and belief in our company, in our artists, in our songwriters, and in yourselves. In my four years at WMG, I have never felt the level of team spirit that I felt this past year. 

You are one of 4,000 people at this company, with a shared mission to entertain the planet. We are very fortunate to be in a business that’s so important to people’s lives. 

“We’ll never toe the industry line if we believe it does a disservice to our talent. We are the independent major.”

It’s not film, or sports, or celebrity that moves the world. It’s music. 

Tellingly, 27 of the top 30 most watched videos of all time on YouTube are music videos, including two multi-platinum WMG tracks that were released just this year: Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”. Musicians also make up 7 out of 10 of the most followed people on both Twitter and Facebook.

So, this is the message that I’d like you all to carry into 2016: just as WMG is a champion for our artists and songwriters, we are a champion of the true value of music. The demand for our art is undeniable, but we need to make sure that demand translates into real reward. We’ll never toe the industry line if we believe it does a disservice to our talent. We are the independent major, and we will forge our own path.

Whatever your role, you can contribute to this daily battle to unlock the real value of music. Next year, I’d like everyone to be even more imaginative and ambitious. Together, we can find new ways to join art and commerce, and make magic happen.

As Jac Holzman once said to me, “if you take care of the music, the music will take care of you”.

I hope you get some much deserved rest over the break. I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

SteveMusic Business Worldwide

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