Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Universal Music Group: We’re Still Selling Tunes, Amazingly

Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest music company, insists the music business isn’t dying. Yesterday, it released numbers to help bolster its case.

UMG saw sales drop 6.2 percent in the last quarter, parent company Vivendi disclosed yesterday. But that’s not as bad as it looks: Strip out the effect of currency fluctuations (chiefly, the rise of the U.S. dollar), and UMG’s revenues actually increased 1.1 percent.

What happened? CD sales are still declining, of course. But Vivendi said the rise of digital music–that means you, Apple (AAPL)–is finally beginning to balance out some of the decline. Digital sales increased 33 percent in the first nine months of the year, the company said.

Vivendi doesn’t break out how much of the growth was due to acquisitions the company made last year (BMG Music Publishing and the Sanctuary music label/management group), but during a conference call, officials said there was indeed organic growth at UMG. Those deals were both closed by early summer 2007, so that sounds right to me.

And this is the point where I’d normally go to YouTube and grab a video of a UMG artist, like, say, Amy Winehouse, to jazz up a fairly dull post. But all of UMG’s videos on Google’s (GOOG) video site seem to have had had their embedding code disabled, presumably at Universal’s request. Which means I had to grab this clip from MTV’s still pretty good music site.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald