Taylor Swift helps fuel Universal Music Group’s third-quarter revenue

By Dawn Chmielewski

(Reuters) -Cultural phenomenon Taylor Swift helped fuel revenue at Universal Music Group in the third quarter, the world’s largest record label said on Thursday.

With the release of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” Swift became the first woman to have four albums in the Top 10 charts at the same time, and the first artist since the Beatles to have songs from three separate albums simultaneously in the Top 10.

“Astonishing, I suppose, is an understatement when it comes to describing Taylor’s breathtaking talent, popularity and career,” Universal Music Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge said during the investor call, adding that Swift’s “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” will be released on Friday.

Grainge touted Universal’s efforts to improve the economics of streaming and promote the responsible use of artificial intelligence. He held up the new “artist-centric” deal signed with French music streaming service Deezer as one that rewards the artists who attract and engage fans by boosting their song streams while depriving “noise” of royalties.

Universal Music and a number of its artists also partnered with YouTube on a Music AI Incubator, to explore how to use the technology to enhance artist creativity.”Unlike past instances when new technology was released into the world and the music community was left to figure out how to develop a business model that would protect artists’ rights and compensation, here, thanks to our close relationship with YouTube, we’re collaborating on opportunities and solutions,” Grainge said.

Total revenue was 2.75 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in the quarter, up 3.3% for the year. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) stood at 581 million euros, up 5.1%, the company reported.

When adjusting for constant currency, revenue was up nearly 10% in the quarter and adjusted EBITDA rose 11.3%.

EBITDA for the quarter fell 11.3% to 478 million euros, reflecting the impact of non-cash share-based compensation expenses of 103 million euros during the quarter.

Recorded music sales totaled 2 billion euros, down 1.1% from a year ago. Subscription revenue rose 6.7% to more than 1 billion euros in the quarter, though revenue from ad-supported free streaming services declined 1.4%, reflecting a soft advertising market.

Revenue from music publishing rose 17.5% to 491 million euros, while merchandise sales increased 20.1% to 227 million euros.

The top sellers for the quarter included Taylor Swift, Seventeen, Morgan Wallen, Olivia Rodrigo and King & Prince.

($1 = 0.9496 euro)

(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)