Four times a year, publicly traded companies have conference calls with Wall Street analysts. They tell them how the company’s doing, and why it’s doing well or not.
This year, in February, May, August, and November, Edgar Bronfman Jr. had such calls with Warmer Music Group. Each time, he said that the company’s release schedule was ‘back-end loaded,’ meaning there would be a flurry of big deal product in the late fall.
At the same time, the dire quarterly report on November 24th sent WMG stock down two bucks, from its inflated $7 to $5.
Here are a couple of quotes from the transcripts of those analyst calls:
“As we had anticipated, this quarter’s declines in revenue and OIBDA reflect the timing of our release schedule, as our release schedule is back-end weighted’
As we noted last quarter, our fiscal year 2009 will be back-end weighted due to the timing of releases.”
–Edgar Bronfman, May 7th
“As our release schedule this year is weighted towards our fiscal fourth quarter, we saw moderate sequential growth in digital recorded music revenue in the third quarter.”
–Edgar Bronfman, August 6th
Either Bronfman was just improvising all year? It’s either that, or the company has a lot of releases out now that they’re hiding somewhere.
Here’s a look at the chart right now, on December 2nd. This is, presumably, the time of year’ Bronfman was alluding to in May and August when he told analysts his schedule was ‘back-end loaded.’
WMG has the ‘Twilight’ soundtrack around #11 on the charts. It’s an Atlantic release. Michael Buble is hovering around number 20. It was released a few months ago. There are two other Buble holiday albums on the charts right now, too. Josh Groban‘s Christmas album from 2008 follows, around number 26. Then there’s the Zac Brown Band, a release from earlier this year. And Trans Siberian Orchestra, which, like Zac Brown, is on Atlantic.
Jay Z‘s ‘Blueprint, Pt. 3’ on Atlantic, too, is somewhere in the 30s. It was released in September, and has had the surprise advantage of a hit single with Alicia Keys. It’s also on the Atlantic label. WMG was so eager to have Jay Z that it bought out his contract “Blueprint, Pt. 3″ at’ DefJam for $5 million.
What’s funny about this is the analysts. They get a chance at the end of that conference call to ask questions. Not one of them has a clue about what to ask. There’s a lot of financial mumbo jumbo. They ask about digital releases and video games and downloading.
Here’s what they might ask: ‘Edgar, is Warner Music a record company? Do you have hits on the radio and records that people are buying? Will you?’
The answer, of course, would be no. Well, there are some: Atlantic Records has a few hits every year. But this year even the one they should have had, Rob Thomas‘s ‘Cradlesong,’ they blew.
Otherwise, WMG spent 2009 like it’s spent the last five years: squandering time, firing people, paying severances. The execs built big houses and went to parties. The artists disappeared.
Compare Warner’s output to RCA/J/Arista. This month, Clive Davis and friends have released new music by Alicia Keys, Barry Manilow, Leona Lewis, and Rod Stewart. They launched their fall with Whitney Houston and have had several other releases like Say Anything and The Priests, too.
Over at the WMG website, things look dire. Under ‘Artists’ they’re listing the Doors, the Grateful Dead (picture with Jerry Garcia), Led Zeppelin, and Burt Bacharach. And those names are mixed with one-hit wonders Daniel Powter and James Blunt ‘‘whose one hits are now more than a year or two old. It’s a very alarming state of affairs, to say the least. But maybe WMG is back-end loaded again ‘ to 2007, or 1976.
P.S. Whatever happened to Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley?