Warner Music Group is now a serious modern media publisher – and it’s axing the historic WEA brand to prove it

Maria Weaver, President, WMX

MBW’s Stat Of The Week is a series in which we highlight a single data point that deserves the attention of the global music industry. Stat Of the Week is supported by Cinq Music Group, a technology-driven record label, distribution, and rights management company.

MBW has a problem with music streaming’s steady growth. Don’t get us wrong: we like the fact that millions more people are paying to access records every year. And we obviously like the fact that streaming’s growth is making the entire music ecosystem a more profitable place to be.

But all this satisfying enrichment tends to make major music companies’ quarterly earnings calls, well, a little bland and predictable.

And we don’t like that. Because, trust us, we listen to a loooot of earnings calls.

You probably know the standard 2021 major music company investor tap-dance by now: “Great news everyone, streaming’s still going up – so that’s hundreds of millions more dollars this year for our topline turnover. But also look at the shiny additional possibilities: Social media income! NFTs! Peloton! Ooooh…. the metaverse!”

And so it was with Warner Music Group‘s calendar Q3 / fiscal Q4 earnings call the other day.

Except, that is, for one conspicuously unusual nugget of information that really grabbed our attention.

On the call, WMG’s Acting CFO, Lou Dickler revealed that Warner’s owned consumer-facing platforms – including hip-hop news site UPROXX, live concert app Songkick, social content creator IMGN, and merch retail platform EMP – are now jointly generating “about $100 million” each quarter as “social publishers”.

In other words, Warner Music Group today owns a portfolio of media and retail destinations that are generating the best part of half a billion dollars annually. And they are largely doing so, we assume, through advertising carried on their platforms.

This would be meaningful revenue for any major media company.

For a major music company – whose core business remains the multi-billion-dollar world of music rights – it’s a Stat Of The Week if ever we saw one.

MBW’S STAT OF THE WEEK: Warner Music Group’s consumer-facing platforms – including the likes of UPROXX, IMGN, and HipHopDX – now generate around $400 million a year.

WMG has confirmed to MBW today that its owned media brands now cumulatively reach more than 249 million unique visitors each month.

That’s big.

For context, it’s not far behind the global reach of Spotify, which was attracting 381 million monthly active users (MAUs) in Q3… and will likely generate over a billion dollars in advertising revenue this year.

All of this is important context when it comes to the news that WMG is taking the story of its in-house media and branding capabilities to the next level.

The firm has announced today that it’s axing its historic WEA brand, and pulling its owned media companies into the center of a new artist-serving entity, WMX.

In layman’s terms, WMX will bring together Warner’s owned media publishing brands with a number of other artist-servicing functions, some of which were formerly part of WEA.

These functions will include Warner’s powerful global merch operation, in addition to a range of services designed to develop and amplify the brands of artists, and the connection of those brands with fans.

As such, WMX will house the following sub-divisions:

  • Commercial Services, helmed by Elsa Vivero, General Manager / Executive Vice President, Global Commercial Services, WMX;
  • Media Business, led by Benjamin Blank, President of Media & Creative Content, WMX;
  • Artist & Fan Experiences, headed by Danielle Lee, President, Warner Music Artist and Fan Experiences, WMX;
  • E-Commerce & Retail, run by Ernst Trapp, President, Global E-Commerce & Retail, WMX;
  • and Audience Strategy, managed by Scott Cherkin, SVP, Audience Engagement, WMX.

Underlining the AdLand-savvy nature of WMX, the division will be run by Maria Weaver – an executive with significant pedigree working in television and directly with brands.

Weaver initially joined WEA at the end of last year, moving over from her role as Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Comcast Advertising.

Prior to that role, Weaver held senior marketing and creative services posts at Interactive One, HBO, and Showtime.

For MBW’s money, the most interesting part of WMX is the collection of media platforms that Warner now owns and controls – including UPROXX, Songkick, IMGN, and HipHopDX, all of which WMG acquired between 2017 and 2021.

In addition, Warner claims that WMX is automatically a “top five video media company for 18-34 audiences in the U.S, generating over 46 billion monthly views through premium music-centric content on verified, premium YouTube channels including The Pit and Indie Mixtape, as well as streaming and social platforms”.

Maria Weaver, President, WMX, said: “The role of a record label is growing, artists are pushing creative boundaries, and consumer behavior is ever-changing.

“WEA was the first to put a global backbone behind distribution and really expand what a music company can offer. With that same pioneering spirit, we’re evolving our company to position Warner Music and its artists for huge opportunities today and in the future.

“WMX is creating immersive, innovative, and impactful experiences, while empowering artists to grow their careers and deepen their vital connections with their fans. We’re excited to bring artists, audiences, and advertisers together in powerful ways.”

“WMX is designed to provide our artists and labels with a deep, dynamic range of services – covering everything from streaming to merch to branded content and beyond. Under Maria’s outstanding leadership, WMX will help differentiate Warner Music, as we attract and amplify original artists.”

Max Lousada, Warner Music Group

Max Lousada, CEO, Recorded Music, Warner Music Group said: “The music business is no longer linear, transactional, and based around one format. It’s complex, multi-faceted, and interactive. There’s an ever-expanding universe of opportunities for talent to build devoted fanbases and extend their brands.

“In this rapidly evolving attention economy, WMX is designed to provide our artists and labels with a deep, dynamic range of services – covering everything from streaming to merch to branded content and beyond.

“Under Maria’s outstanding leadership, WMX will help differentiate Warner Music, as we attract and amplify original artists.”

WEA was originally formed in 1971, bringing together three visionary record labels – Warner Bros., Elektra, and Atlantic.

In more recent times WEA has served as Warner’s central division for additional artist and label services such as streaming account management & playlisting; direct-to-fan and merchandising operations; consumer acquisition; content creation; legal & business affairs; and finance.

Cinq Music Group’s repertoire has won Grammy awards, dozens of Gold and Platinum RIAA certifications, and numerous No.1 chart positions on a variety of Billboard charts. Its repertoire includes heavyweights such as Bad Bunny, Janet Jackson, Daddy Yankee, T.I., Sean Kingston, Anuel, and hundreds more.Music Business Worldwide

Related Posts