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Playlist revolution: UMTV is now UMOD UNIVERSAL’S COMPILATIONS LABEL MOVES INTO STREAMING ERA WITH NEW NAME, NEW FOCUS ON PLAYLISTS
LABELS BY MARK SUTHERLAND
Universal Music’s giant compilations division, UMTV, is to rebrand as Universal Music On Demand (UMOD) as the sector continues to transition away from physical and download albums to focus on streaming.
Universal dominated the compilations sector in Q2 with a 39% market share, according to Official Charts Company data. UMTV’s compilations sales were up 46.6% year-on-year in the quarter, but total compilations sales crashed 20.9% in Q2 as streaming finally began to impact on the sector.
In a “strategic response” to such changes in music consumption, the new UMOD division will coordinate Universal’s dynamic playlist strategy as well as releasing traditional compilations and one-off artist projects.
“The move to playlisting has been gradual over the last few years,” UMOD managing director Simon Barnabas told Music Week. “We can all see the direction in which the business is moving. This is formalising the process and making it much more in line with the digital era. Calling yourself ‘TV’ immediately dates you and limits you.”
Barnabas said playlists will play a vital role in UMOD’s strategy to build incremental revenue for Universal repertoire, while helping frontline labels break new records and artists. Universal had a market-leading 37.8% share of Q2 track streams and already has a number of successful playlist brands, including 100 Percent, This Is, Radio Active and Hits. And Barnabas said UMOD’s platforms could compete for listeners with the much-touted in-house curated playlists from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.
“We’re in different lanes,” he said. “With playlists,
In Demand: (L-R) Universal’s David Joseph and Simon Barnabas we can be so much quicker to react. Not only is it New Music Fridays, for us it’s new music every day. We can be updating playlists in line with what’s happening with the zeitgeist, whether it’s a sporting event, a news event, a brand new single or just something buzzworthy. We’ve got a young and vibrant team and it’s a case of having that finger on the pulse and being ahead of, or part of, trends.”
And, despite the market’s falling sales, Barnabas said traditional compilations are still alive and kicking, and that “well-curated, well-executed, good value-for-money products” would always sell. Universal has racked up healthy 2016 sales for its various artists albums, including Sing Your Heart Out! 2016 (235,399 to date), The Country Album (172,433) and 100 Percent Clubland (154,729).
“It’s clear to see, as streaming becomes more mainstream, it’s going to impact on the more casual user base and those, generally speaking, are compilation buyers,” he admitted. “But our sales increase shows we can defy that. We’re enjoying a purple patch so we’re not panicking, it’s still going to be a huge part of our business.”
UMOD arrives as the industry debates the role of streaming in general, and playlists in particular, on the slowing down of the singles chart and the lack of new artist breakthroughs this year. But Barnabas said he was not concerned about their impact.
“I don’t think it’s [caused] either of those things,” he said. “If you look at the album chart, you still see a very vibrant, diverse landscape for music in the UK. The quality of the pop acts is still there and, when we ’re seeing things breaking, they’re breaking on a global scale, which is really exciting for the industry.”
Barnabas, who joined UMTV from Sony Music in April, will continue to report to Universal Music UK chairman/CEO David Joseph, who told Music Week it was “the natural time to be aligning our compilation and playlist strategies into one place”.
“I’m very confident in Simon and his team delivering creative results for our artists and labels,” said Joseph.