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Universal Music Group N.V. (often abbreviated as UMG and referred to as just Universal Music) is a Dutch–American multinational . UMG's corporate headquarters are located in Hilversum, Netherlands and its operational headquarters are located in , California. The biggest music company in the world, it is one of the "" record labels, along with and . acquired ten percent of Universal Music Group in March 2020 for €3 billion and acquired an additional ten percent stake in January 2021. later acquired ten percent of UMG prior to its on the stock exchange. The company went public on September 21, 2021 at a valuation of €46 billion. In 2019, ' named Universal Music Group the most innovative music company and listed UMG among the Top 50 most innovative companies in the world and "amid the music industry's digital transformation, Universal is redefining what a modern label should look like." UMG has signed licensing agreements with more than 400 platforms worldwide.


History


Early history

The company's origins go back to the formation of the American branch of in September 1934 and its name and company logo originates from 's "", with which the music business shares a common history but which is today as part of NBCUniversal an independent commercial entity. The Decca Record Co. Ltd. of England spun American Decca off in 1939. merged with American Decca in 1962. In November 1990, Japanese multinational conglomerate agreed to acquire MCA for $6.59 billion. In 1995, acquired 80 percent of MCA from Matsushita. On December 9, 1996, the company was renamed , and its music division was renamed Universal Music Group; MCA Records continued as a label within the Universal Music Group. In May 1998, Seagram purchased and merged it with Universal Music Group in early 1999.


2004: Consolidating into a Vivendi subsidiary

In May 2004, Universal Music Group was cast under separate management from Universal Studios, when French media conglomerate sold 80% of the latter to , who subsequently merged it with to form . This came two months after the separation of from . In February 2006, Vivendi (which own UMG since 2000) purchased the remaining 20 percent of UMG from Matsushita Electric. On September 6, 2006, Vivendi announced its €1.63 billion ($2.4 billion) purchase of ; after receiving European Union regulatory approval, the acquisition was completed on June 25, 2007.


2007–2012 and EMI purchase

In June 2007, UMG acquired Sanctuary, which eventually became UMG's entertainment merchandising and brand management division, Bravado. The company represents artists such as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West, and has partnered with retailers including , and . In 2008, Universal Music Group agreed to make its catalog available to , then a new streaming service, for use outside the U.S. on a limited basis. stepped down from his position as CEO on January 1, 2011. Former chairman/CEO of Universal Music International was promoted to CEO of the company. Grainge later replaced him as chairman on March 9, 2011. Morris became the next chairman of on July 1, 2011. With Grainge's appointment as CEO at UMG, was promoted to COO of UMGI, effective July 1, 2010. Starting in 2011 UMG's began signing contestants from '. In January 2011, UMG announced it was donating 200,000 master recordings from the 1920s to 1940s to the for preservation. In 2011, EMI agreed to sell its recorded music operations to Universal Music Group for £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) and its music publishing operations to a -led consortium for $2.2 billion. Among the other companies that had competed for the recorded music business was which was reported to have made a $2 billion bid. opposed the merger. In March 2012, the European Union opened an investigation into the acquisition The EU asked rivals and consumer groups whether the deal would result in higher prices and shut out competitors. On September 21, 2012, the sale of EMI to UMG was approved in Europe and the United States by the and respectively. However, the European Commission approved the deal only under the condition the merged company divest one third of its total operations to other companies with a proven track record in the music industry. UMG divested , , , , , , , Universal Greece, , , , , and to comply with this condition. UMG retained (formerly of Parlophone) and (formerly of Chrysalis). The Beatles catalogue was transferred to UMG's newly formed , while Williams' catalogue was transferred to .


2012–2017: EMI integration and divisions reorganization

Universal Music Group completed their acquisition of on September 28, 2012. In November 2012, was appointed chairman and CEO of . He formerly served as COO of . In compliance the conditions of the European Commission after purchase of EMI, Universal Music Group sold the Mute catalogue to the German-based on December 22, 2012. Two months later, BMG acquired for €50 million ($58 million). On February 8, 2013, acquired the Parlophone Label Group (consisting of , , , and EMI Records' Belgian, Czech, Danish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Slovak and Swedish divisions) for $765 million (£487 million). Later in February, acquired UMG's European share in ' for approximately $60 million. acquired Co-Operative Music for £500,000 in March 2013. With EMI's absorption into Universal Music complete, its British operations consist of five label units: Island, Polydor, Decca, Virgin EMI and Capitol. In the Greek market, as part of its divesture plans, Universal Music retained Minos EMI and sold Universal Music Greece to Greek investors who renamed it Cobalt Music. acquired the MPS catalogue from Universal in January 2014. On March 20, 2013, UMG announced the worldwide extension of their exclusive distribution deal with the , excluding Japan. As a result of this deal DMG's labels and artists have access to UMG's roster of producers and songwriters on a worldwide basis. The exclusive deal also saw UMG granted unlimited access to all rights pertaining to Disney's 85-year back catalog of soundtracks and albums. On April 2, 2013, the gospel music divisions of and EMI merged to form a new label called Motown Gospel. In May 2013, Japanese company offered $8.5 billion to Vivendi for the acquisition of UMG, but Vivendi rejected it. In July 2018, JPMorgan said that UMG could be worth as much as $40 billion and then increased the valuation to $50 billion in 2019. In August 2013, UMG became the first company in the US to have nine of the Top 10 songs on the digital charts, according to and weeks later, became the first company to hold all 10 of the Top 10 spots on the . In September 2013, UMG received a American Scene Award for the company's commitment to diversity as exemplified by its "entire catalog and roster of artists." On April 1, 2014, Universal Music announced the disbandment of , one of four operational umbrella groups within Universal Music. Universal CEO said of the closure, "No matter how much we might work to build 'IDJ' as a brand, that brand could never be as powerful as each of IDJ's constituent parts." and now operate as autonomous record labels. David Massey and Bartels, who worked respectively at Island and Def Jam Records, were named to the new record labels independently. , who previously moved from to lead Island Def Jam Music in 2012 when was incorporated into Island Def Jam, stepped down from Universal Music. Additionally, as part of the changes to the labels, Motown Records transferred to Los Angeles to become part of the and previous Vice President Ethiopia Habtemariam was promoted to Label President for Motown Records. Universal Music Group entered into film and TV production with the 2014 purchase of . UMG's first major film production was ', which won an Oscar for Best Documentary, while taking part in ' and ' documentaries. In January 2016, UMG hired David Blackman from Laurence Mark Production where he was president of production as head of film and television development and production, and theater producer Scott Landis as special advisor on theatrical development and production. UMG Executive Vice President Michele Anthony and Universal Music Publishing Group Chairman and CEO Jody Gerson have oversight of the pair. On February 11, 2017, was relaunched as a film and television unit of Universal Music Group under David Blackman. In 2015, UMG's earned all the major for the year, with receiving , and awards and winning . In March 2016, Universal Music Canada donated the archives of EMI Music Canada to the . In May 2016, UMG acquired Famehouse, a digital marketing agency. That same year, and the both signed to UMG's Capitol Records, including their catalog releases. In April 2017, UMG signed a new multi-year licensing agreement with , the world's leading streaming service, and in May 2017, UMG signed a deal with , China's biggest gaming and social media firm. In July 2017, "" by , and featuring , became the most streamed track of all time. By 2018, the song had broken several ', including Most Weeks at Number 1 on chart and most-viewed video online. In August 2017, UMG and agreed to develop three new music-based television series, ''27'', ''Melody Island'' and ''Mixtape''. ''27'' would focus on musicians at the age of 27, an age at which . ''Melody Island'' was an animated series based on tropical island music with live craft segments. ''Mixtape'' had twelve episodes, with each episode connected to a song. In October 2017, UMG announced the launch of its Accelerator Engagement Network, an initiative aimed to help develop music-based startups around the world. In November 2017, announced UMG's partnership in the "Annenberg Inclusion Initiative", becoming the first music company to do so. The initiative is meant to create change for representation of women and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the media industry. In December 2017, Universal Music Group acquired and labels, along with Perfect Songs Publishing, from 's SPZ Group; , through Union Square Music subsidiary, retained its back catalogues. That same month, UMG signed a global, multi-year agreement with Facebook becoming the first of The "" to license its recorded music and publishing catalogs for video and other social experiences across , and . Sony and Warner signed similar contracts with Facebook the following year. Furthermore, on December 19, 2017, UMG signed a multi-year licensing agreement with .


2018–present: Continued growth and public trading

In June 2018, announced an exclusive license agreement with . With the addition of Japan, UMG distributes releases from Disney Music Group globally. In July, signed a worldwide agreement with UMG covering the band's recorded music and audio-visual catalogues, archival support, global merchandising and brand management. That same month, Vivendi announced it would explore selling as much as half of Universal Music Group to one or more investors. In 2018 US Music Mid-Year report, UMG made history with eight of the Top 10 artists, including all of the top five, as well as all of the top eight artists ranked by on-demand audio streams. In August 2018, UMG announced a strategic expansion in Africa, opening an office in to oversee French-speaking Africa, and also unveiling a Universal Music Nigera office in to focus on signing local artists and taking them global. In September 2018, singer signed a global partnership agreement with UMG across recorded music, music publishing, brand management, and licensing rights. On November 19, 2018, singer-songwriter signed a new multi-album deal with UMG, in the United States, her future releases will be promoted under the imprint. In addition to the promised ownership of her master recordings, UMG agreed to, in case it sells portions of its stake in , distribute proceeds among its artists and make them non-recoupable. In December 2018, "" became the most-streamed song from the pre-streaming era and the most-streamed classic rock song of all time. In February 2019, UMG fully acquired music distributor . UMG was named to ''Fast Company's'' annual list of the World's 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2019, the first major music company to be included on the list in a decade. UMG is also ranked number 1 in the music category. UMG was named by ' as one of America's Best Midsize Employers in 2019. In June, YouTube and UMG announced that they were upgrading more than 1,000 popular music videos to high definition, releasing them through 2020. In August 2019, and Vivendi started negotiation to sell 10% Vivendi's stake of Universal Music to Tencent. The deal is expected to be of $3.36 billion. In February 2020, Vivendi announced it was planning to go public in an IPO within three years. The company and announced a music product partnership on April 26, 2020. On June 16, 2020, Universal rebranded Virgin EMI Records as EMI Records and named Rebecca Allen (former president of UMG's Decca label) as the label's president, bringing back the EMI brand. The same day, UMG announced launch of its new affiliates in Morocco and Israel. In July 2020, UMG signed a new multi-year licensing agreement with . In June 2021, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, a run by investor Bill Ackman, announced it would acquire 10 percent of UMG before it went public, in a $4 billion transaction. The deal collapsed in July 2021 due to regulatory concerns, and it was announced that Ackman's would complete the purchase instead. In September 2021, , announces an introduction price of €18,50 and Vivendi set an initial valuation for UMG at €33 billion ($38.3 billion). Vivendi distributed 60 percent of its UMG shares and retaining 10 percent. Tencent emerged as UMG's biggest corporate shareholder with 20 percent of shares. Vivendi ex-chairman held 18 percent of UMG shares and Pershing Square Holdings held 10 percent of UMG. In its IPO, UMG hits €54 billion ($62.6 billion) valuation which is over a third bigger than initial valuation.


Labels


Vevo

Universal Music Group co-developed , a site designed for music videos inspired by , which similarly allows free ad-supported streaming of videos and other music content. On May 24, 2018, announced that it would no longer continue distributing videos to , instead opting to primarily focus on syndication.


Locations


Los Angeles metropolitan area


Santa Monica

UMG's operational headquarters are located in . and Universal Music Enterprises (UME), the company's catalog division, are headquartered in Santa Monica. , and also maintain offices there. UMG chairman & CEO is based at the company's Santa Monica offices. is also headquartered in the city.


Hollywood

is headquartered at the in Hollywood. is also headquartered in Hollywood.


Woodland Hills

Universal Music Group operates a secondary office in Woodland Hills that includes finance, royalty, and operations functions.


Miami

Universal Music Latin Entertainment is headquartered in .


Nashville

Universal Music Group Nashville is headquartered in .


New York City

UMG has offices in New York City where , , , , and are headquartered.


Madrid

Universal Music Spain is based in , Spain.


London

Universal Music Group Global (formerly known as ''Universal Music Group International (UMGI)'') operates offices in London.


Berlin

Universal Music GmbH, the German subsidiary, is headquartered in . It moved in 2002 from Hamburg to the district at the river .


Warsaw

Universal Music Group's is located in .


Toronto

Universal Music Group's Universal Music Canada is located in Toronto.


Japan

is headquartered in , .


Other locations

UMG operates in more than 60 territories around the world including Australia, Central America, Brazil, France, India, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine, South Korea and more. Company's legal headquarters are in the Netherlands. Universal Music Group's largest corporate shareholder, , is headquartered in , China. Tencent's ultimate largest controlling corporate shareholder, , is headquartered in , South Africa.


Legal issues


CD price fixing

In 2000, music companies including UMG entered into consent agreements with the , with no admission of liability, whereby they agreed to discontinue the use of programs under which subsidized cooperative advertising was provided to retailers that agreed to adhere to minimum advertised pricing. In 2002, a similar settlement was entered into with music publishers and distributors , , , and Universal Music Group and certain retailers, without admission of liability or wrongdoing, with various states. In settlement of the claim, the companies collectively agreed to pay a $67.4 million fine and distribute $75.7 million in to public and non-profit groups. It was estimated that consumers were overcharged by $500 million and up to $5 per album.


Payola

In May 2006, an investigation led by then , , concluded with a determination that Universal Music Group radio stations to play songs from , , , , and other performers under Universal labels. The company paid $12 million to the state in settlement.


YouTube

In 2007, with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Stephanie Lenz sued UMG's publishing company for allegedly improperly requesting that, pursuant to the , YouTube remove a 29-second home video in which Lenz's child danced to a recording of song "". After years of litigation, the suit settled in 2018, prior to the court holding a trial on whether UMG had a subjective belief that the video was infringing and not fair to use before sending its request to YouTube. In April 2016, UMG had the audio muted of a video clip showing singing the British national anthem. They claimed that the recording of "" was copyrighted, and YouTube initially complied with this request, but subsequently offered the video with the original audio track.


Imeem

In December 2007, UMG announced a deal with which allows users of the social network to listen to any track from Universal's catalogue for free with a portion of the advertising generated by the music being shared with the record label. All traffic was redirected to after that company acquired on December 8, 2009.


Universal archive fire (2008)

According to Jody Rosen of ', the fire which swept through on June 1, 2008, caused "the biggest disaster in the history of the music business". In space rented from NBCUniversal, according to an official document marked "Confidential", the fire destroyed at least 118,230 "assets" (), or about 500,000 song titles, owned by UMG. "The vault housed tape masters for , the pop, jazz and classical powerhouse; it housed master tapes for the storied blues label ; it housed masters for , the groundbreaking jazz label. The vault held masters for the MCA, ABC, A&M, Geffen and Interscope labels; as well as some smaller subsidiary labels. Nearly all of these masters—in some cases, the complete discographies of entire record labels—were wiped out in the fire." In a statement issued on June 11, 2019, UMG said ' article contained "numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets." Following the publication of the ''New York Times'' story, of confirmed that the master tapes for two of the band's albums, including unused material and multi-track recordings, were lost in the fire. Similarly, bassist said he believed the masters for the band's 1991 album ' were "gone forever" as a result of the fire. Representatives for announced they would investigate the effects the fire may have had on the band's archival materials, while , , and made statements on their possible losses from the fire. A representative for confirmed that the rapper's master recordings were digitized months before the fire, but could not confirm whether the physical master reels of his recordings were affected. UMG archivist Patrick Kraus assured that the , , , , , and masters survived the fire and were still in Universal's archive. Howard King filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles on June 21, 2019, on behalf of , , , the estate of and a former wife of that seeks class action status for artists whose master recordings were believed to have been destroyed in the Universal Studios fire.


Megaupload

On December 9, 2011, published a music video titled: "The Mega Song", showing artists including , , and endorsing the company. The music video was also uploaded to YouTube, but was removed following a takedown request by UMG. said that the video contained no infringing content, commenting: "we have signed agreements with every featured artist for this campaign". requested an apology from UMG, and filed a lawsuit against the company in the , on December 12, 2011.Megaupload threatens to sue Universal over YouTube video
' (London), December 13, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
Megaupload to Sue Universal, Joins Fight Against SOPA
December 12, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
UMG denied that the takedown was ordered under the terms of the , and said that the takedown was "pursuant to the UMG-YouTube agreement," which gives UMG "the right to block or remove user-posted videos through YouTube's CMS (Content Management System) based on a number of contractually specified criteria."UMG claims "right to block or remove" YouTube videos it doesn't own
Ars Technica, December 16, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
The video was subsequently returned to YouTube, with the reasons for the UMG takedown remaining unclear.File-Sharing Company Sues Record Label, for a Change
New York Times, December 13, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
Lawyers for initially claimed that he had never agreed to the project, and on December 12, he denied any involvement in the takedown notice.UMG, MegaUpload Case Gets Even Stranger; Will.i.am Says He Didn't Authorize A Takedown
Techdirt. December 15, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2011.
Megaupload dismissed its case against UMG in January 2012.


Copyright termination lawsuit

On February 5, 2019, and filed a class-action lawsuit against UMG claiming the company is violating their right to terminate grants of copyright after 35 years in accordance with by ignoring Notices of Termination. On May 3, 2019, UMG filed a motion to dismiss the case, stating the Notices of Termination were not valid because the songs were not grants of copyright but .


See also

* * * *


References


External links

* *
UMG History page
* {{Authority control, state=expanded Former Vivendi subsidiaries