The world’s largest music company, Universal Music Group, posted a record $9.4 billion in revenue for 2021, the company announced in its earnings report on Thursday. That marks a 14.4% increase over 2020, although comparisons with the pandemic year are obviously skewed.
Recorded music revenues were up 14.3% to around $7.52 billion, while streaming soared nearly 17% to just under $5 billion. Physical revenue is up 18.6% year-over-year to around $1.24 billion, powered mostly by vinyl’s continued growth and a boost in direct-to-consumer sales.
Top sellers for the year included new albums from Olivia Rodrigo, BTS, Justin Bieber, Morgan Wallen, ABBA and Taylor Swift, while the Weeknd and Billie Eilish also posted strong sales.
According to the report, the company spent around $420 million on “catalog investments,” less than half of the $1.03 billion it spent in 2020, when it acquired Bob Dylan’s song catalog for an amount sources say was nearly $400 million. While the company has already made a pair of top-dollar acquisitions in 2022 — the song catalogs of Sting and Neil Diamond, along with the latter’s masters — its biggest publicized catalog deal last year was a career-spanning agreement with Aerosmith.
Universal Music Publishing’s revenue was up 12.6% to $1.49 billion, thanks to ongoing growth in streaming as well as synch and catalog acquisition. Its EBITDA was up 14.1% to $339 million.
For the fourth quarter of 2021, UMG’s revenue was up 19% to $2.8 billion, with recorded music pulling in $2.19 billion up 15.2%. Publishing hit $451 million, up a whopping 31.6%, for the fourth quarter.
Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge said, “2021 was yet another historic year for UMG. We helped our artists achieve extraordinary success – including 8 of the IFPI’s top 10 global artists of the year. In addition to strong performance in streaming, we drove new areas of opportunity for our artists – ranging from merchandise to brand management, sponsorship, ecommerce, and film & television. And we expanded our partner portfolio into emerging growth areas such as health and fitness, Web3 and social video.
“Our success in all these efforts showed in our financial performance,” he continued. “Revenues increased by 17% on a constant currency basis, Adjusted EBITDA margin expanded and Free cash flow improved significantly. Going forward, we see the industry continuing to grow and – with our unique experience, our deep understanding of the business and the vast artist relationships and global creative networks – we expect to further strengthen our position as the industry leader as we continue to break new artists and build on our world-class catalogue.”