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SIR LUCIAN TURNS IT UP

On the eve of the UMG IPO, we asked chieftain Sir Lucian Grainge a few questions about the biz landscape and the fortunes of his company. For some reason, he decided to answer them.

Where do you see growth for the biz coming from over the next three or so years?
I see so many potential growth areas. But if I had to pick just a few, I think you’ll see the most opportunity in four key ones: growing access to digital services (including subscription); technological innovation (like the connected car and voice-enabled devices); high-growth markets (like China, Latin America, Africa and India); and new categories (like health and fitness and ecommerce). That means more growth, more competition, more revenue sources. That’s good for artists and good for fans.

How has the establishment and development of regional labels in Africa, China, Korea and other global territories, especially in the last couple of years, affected the value of UMG?
I spent a big part of my career managing the international division for UMG, so I know the importance of investing in local A&R in markets around the world. Even when the industry had double-digit declines—and even as we cut costs in many parts of the company to preserve profitability—we continued to invest in A&R. That preserved the commitment to local music that has given us a sizeable advantage as the industry returned to growth. Because, as music became monetizable in markets that had been decimated by piracy, we were already on the ground there with established networks of artists, producers and creative executives. That presence—that local expertise—is why we are achieving success in so many high-growth markets around the world today. And it’s why we’ll be a driver of growth going forward.

What have you learned about your company over the course of the pandemic? What’s been the most surprising takeaway for you?
Probably the resilience—the passion, the commitment our employees have to our artists. That was something I was very aware of prior to the pandemic, but it crystallized for me when our employees had to be so creative and entrepreneurial during the pandemic. What they were able to deliver for our artists was truly exceptional. Am I surprised by it? No. Was it inspiring to see? Of course.

How do you wind down amid all this pressure?
I go into my home office, put on some classic punk—The Sex Pistols, The Damned—and blast it!


illustration by Sam Viviano

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