Here’s how Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge sums up 2018: “It was a very good year for the industry. It was a terrific year for us.” In fact, UMG enjoyed what may be the most dominant year by a music company in modern history. Its market share for current recordings — driven by a portfolio of labels that includes Republic Records, Capitol Music Group and Interscope Geffen A&M — exceeded 40 percent, nearly double that of second-place Sony Music Entertainment and greater than Sony and UMG’s other rival, Warner Music Group, combined.
As streaming has surged, so have the fortunes of many record labels. But UMG has gained on its rivals thanks to the heavier bets Grainge, 58, placed years ago on hip-hop and A&R, investing long before the prices of signing talent rocketed to their current highs and putting UMG in a better position to splurge today.
UMG-distributed recordings accounted for the top five most-streamed tracks on Spotify in 2018, as well as the year’s top two most-consumed albums, Drake’s Scorpion and Post Malone’s beerbongs & bentleys; Spotify’s most-streamed female artist of the year, Ariana Grande; the highest-grossing music biopic of all time, Bohemian Rhapsody (which Grainge has seen three times); the film soundtrack song that is nominated for two Grammys and an Academy Award, “Shallow,” from A Star Is Born; and music from the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther: The Album, which is up for eight Grammys.