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.

The WMG stock has sunk to all-time lows, then revived very slightly based on completely strange reports from stock analysts.

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.

Author
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. He wrote the Intelligencer column for NY Magazine in the mid 90s, reporting on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as for the real Parade magazine (when it was owned by Conde Nast), and has written for the New York Observer, Details, Vogue, Spin, the New York Times, NY Post, Washington Post, and NY Daily News among many publications. He is the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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