A FIRST FOR WMG:
A $6B FISCAL YEAR

Warner Music Group topped $6b in revenue in its fiscal year for the first time in the music group’s history.

WMG brought in $6.03b between 10/1/22 and 9/30/23, with the recorded-music division accounting for $4.95b—about 82%—of that total.

Streaming revenue increased 6.7% in constant currency as the company reported revenue of nearly $4b. Recorded Music streaming revenue was up 3.9% in constant currency, affected by a lighter release schedule, the market-related slowdown in ad-supported revenue in the first half of the year and the impact of an additional week in FY 2022.

“We delivered on our promise of second-half improvement,” WMG CEO Robert Kyncl said. “As the music ecosystem is recognizing the value of premium content and emerging markets continue to gain traction, our industry is healthy and growing. With these tailwinds, we’ve been working hard to build a WMG that will excel in the music industry of tomorrow and look forward to bringing you incredible music in 2024 from our extraordinary artists and songwriters.”

Kyncl told stock analysts that the company is heading into fiscal 2024 “with strong momentum,” singling out the success of new music by Jack Harlow, David Guetta and Dua Lipa and the company’s continued growth internationally, especially in India and China.

YouTube’s announcement of its plan to work with labels regarding AI drew kudos from Kyncl.

“Imagine if in the early 2000s, file-sharing companies came to music companies and said, ‘Would you like to experiment and see how it impacts your business and how we can work together?’ It didn’t happen. This is the first time a large platform with major tools is proactively reaching out to its partners to test and learn in an orderly fashion. I really applaud YouTube, Google and our [music industry] counterparts because this is the right way to engage. We’re excited to learn from it and have a great blueprint for how things should work.”

But back to the results: Operating income was $790m compared to $714m in the prior year. OIBDA was $1.12b compared to $1.05b, an increase of 9.6% in constant currency; OIBDA margin increased to 18.6% from 17.6% the prior year.

Recorded-music operating income was $875m, up from $796m in the prior year, and operating margin was up 1.7 percentage points to 17.7%. The year included successful releases by Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Zach Bryan and Linkin Park.

Music-publishing revenue increased 15% in constant currency to $1.09b, driven by growth in digital, performance and mechanical revenue. Digital revenue increased nearly 20% to $669m, which includes the impact in the prior year of $7m in downloads and other digital revenue from the Copyright Settlement. The streaming revenue spike of 22.6% reflected the continued growth in streaming and the impact of digital-deal renewals, including the company’s TikTok renewal.

In the FY fourth quarter—7/1-9/30—revenue was up 6% to $1.59b. Digital revenue increased 8% to $1.07b, which includes the impact in the prior-year quarter of $38m in downloads and other digital revenue from the settlement of certain copyright-infringement cases. Streaming revenue increased 12.6%. Music Publishing revenue was up 17% to $298m.

“Our performance in the quarter was underpinned by a solid release slate and momentum in our Recorded Music streaming growth,” said WMG's new CFO, Bryan Castellani. “This fueled our second-half improvement, which, combined with our disciplined cost management, resulted in robust adjusted OIBDA growth and margin expansion for the full year. We are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for WMG to capitalize on favorable industry trends and drive shareholder value through profitable growth and healthy cash-flow conversion in 2024 and beyond.”

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