Really, you can fire everyone and cut back all use of paper clips, but if you want to have a successful record company, you’ve got to have hits.
In the five years of Edgar Bronfman and Lyor Cohen’s reign over Warner Music, they’ve had few hits. Almost none, in fact. They relied on acts already signed to the company, such as Linkin Park, Green Day, Josh Groban and Nickelback.
Now the cows have come home to roost: massive losses posted yesterday.
How sad it must be for the remaining WMG staff and shareholders that as this news is released, the company’s biggest-selling album is No. 20 on the charts, with 27,000 copies sold for the week. It’s the Zac Brown Band. Ever hear them? Are you humming a Zac Brown song now? I didn’t think so.
It’s summer. The time when kids buy and listen to music, and WMG has, really, nothing.’ This is obviously not’the Warner Music of “Rumours,” or even “Smoke From a Distant Fire.” There is nothing to hum along to except stories of Bronfman and Cohen buying new, more expensive homes.
But Zac Brown is on WMG’s Atlantic Records, run by Craig Kallman. If it weren’t for Atlantic, WMG wouldn’t exist at all. Somehow Kallman and his staff’have kept the whole enterprise running despite WMG’s penchant for failure. If’Kallman had real support beyond his label, then Rob Thomas’s “Cradle Song” and the single “Someday” would be No. 1 on their respective charts. Instead, the excellent CD is struggling.
WMG reported a third quarter loss of $37 million, compared to $9 million same time last year. Come on, are we kidding? That’s with the release of the Green Day album, which, of course, was a disappointment. In the U.S., revenue fell 10%. Bronfman’s usual plea is that the release schedule is “backloaded” to the fall. If Warner doesn’t come up with a single hit this fall, or Christmas, then what? This party is over. If there really are shareholders somewhere, they should be storming the doors in Rockefeller Center.
WMG stock opened at $5.59 yesterday and closed at $5.28.