A revitalized music powerhouse uses external partnerships, technology, new platforms and extensive data to build new revenue streams and to surmount challenges in one of the first industries to go digital.
It’s been a difficult decade for any company that's been in the recorded music business. The industry was one of the first traditional industries to be rocked by the revolution in consumer consumption modes. Its business model was turned upside down by disaggregation, piracy and the proliferation of new technology platforms. But for one company, Universal Music Group, through the turmoil the focus remains on two stakeholders—the listeners and the artists. Universal Music Group is the world's largest recorded music company, grown even larger with the acquisition of EMI earlier in 2013. And recorded music is now coming back. Last year the industry achieved higher revenues than it had the year before, for the first time in at least a decade. Universal has used several strategies to succeed in the new landscape. It employs many, many external partnerships, with hardware manufacturers, platform providers and distributors, to make sure the music gets heard. It relies heavily on data—available to staff and artists alike—to introduce and manage new artists. And its top management is keenly focused on digital strategy. Rob Wells, president of global digital business at Universal Music Group, talks with Michael Fitzgerald, contributing editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, about the work he and his colleagues at Universal have done to deal with massive change, take advantage of new opportunities and put Universal at the forefront of a new industry landscape.