Warner Music CEO Steve Cooper on the 'new era in entertainment'

Warner Music CEO Steve Cooper on the 'new era in entertainment'

Warner Music Group Steve Cooper has shared his vision for the major’s streaming-fuelled global growth during Goldman Sachs' Communacopia Virtual Conference.

Interviewed by Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry, Cooper expanded on some of the themes familiar from his bullish earnings call commentaries in recent quarters. 

Subscription streaming is just the beginning of a new era in entertainment,” he said.

Warner Music’s global expansion in recent years has been in tandem with DSPs.

“This mutally supportive relationship is vital to their growth and our growth,” he said. “When they go into new territories, we go along with them. It’s one of the reasons, actually, we have invested heavily over the last seven or eight years in expanding our geographical reach.”

While Cooper declined to discuss specifics of its Spotify renewal, he said that terms of its current DSP licensing deals are “equal to or slightly better than they were in our prior deals”.

Cooper acknowledged that streaming is powering growth for WMG globally. It’s 70% of total revenue and increasing at a double-digit growth. Cooper suggested that major markets, including the UK, still have further scope for strong growth. 

But Cooper noted that streaming is “only one of our growth engines”, as he outlined WMG’s place in the evolving digital ecosystem.

“Music has also become the cornerstone for a whole host of new business models, from social media to in-home fitness to new utilisation in TV and film,” he said. “What we’re looking to do is be the leading, 21st century digital music entertainment company that works globally as well as locally. The way we add value with the speed at which the music ecosphere is changing, and the growing complexity that it brings, is that we and other major labels and our publishers are now the people that enable our artists to cut through the noise." 

We’ve got no competing priorities, so we can focus solely on music entertainment

Steve Cooper

During his recent earnings call, Cooper said TikTok was “in the start-up category” in revenue terms for Warner. But he noted the huge impact of the short-form video platform.

“Eighteen months ago, nobody had heard of TikTok,” he said during the Goldman Sachs virtual event. “Now it’s one of the largest platforms on the planet, and there would be no TikTok without music.” 

Cooper said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, Warner Music has supported artists, including emerging acts. As revealed in the latest issue of Music Week, the major opened up its recording studio in London at the earliest opportunity. 

With 40,000-50,000 tracks added a day on Spotify, Cooper suggested that WMG provided the “vital connective tissue” between artists and fans globally.

“We have the expertise to identify and nurture this talent and the next generation of superstars, but we also have the ability – given the depth and breadth of our business – to reach fans across virtually every consumer touch point,” he said. 

While Covid has impacted the release schedule, Cooper said Q4 and early 2021 will see the return of major acts. Coldplay are among the acts believed to have new material ready to go, as previously reported by Music Week.

“We have some huge artists coming back,” he said. “They’re all at the top of their game. Their new music is being heavily anticipated. And at the same time, we’ve got some really, really cool, great, dynamic, new artists coming through.” 

Summing up WMG’s crucial role in the new streaming music economy, Cooper said: “We are the only pure play global music company on the planet. We’ve got no competing priorities, so we can focus solely on music entertainment. We operate as one company. While we have unique brands locally, we communicate, collaborate, cooperate and coordinate on a global basis, which allows us to maximise the advantage of our scale.”

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