Warner Music Group continues to drift lower and lower. Today they reported more huge losses, no surprise. Their morning quarterly call with financial analysts was as painful to listen to as usual. WMG reported a 14% loss, $46 million vs. $18 million the previous quarter. “Cost cutting” didn’t help–they’ve cut everything. And while music sales are down everywhere, WMG is notable for not developing new acts or promoting current acts. “We had a lot of releases in the December quarter,” Edgar Bronfman, Jr. told the analysts. “By and large they did not do as well as we expected them to do versus, obviously, other companies.” Bronfman said he didn’t know whether that was because the public didn’t like WMG’s releases or liked other labels’ more. The reality is that Christmas, the biggest part of the music industry’s year, gave WMG no hits. At the moment, WMG has one album–by 25 year old Bruno Mars–in the top 20.
In the end, listening to this call as I have to so many others on WMG’s finances, I can only blame the analysts. They ask the worst questions, and seem to have no understanding of the music business at all. They are equally pathetic. Instead of querying Bronfman about a possible sale of WMG, or breaking off its Warner Chappell publishing division, they ask about Ringtones (so 2005). You can’t help people who won’t help themselves. The sky has fallen, it’s in pieces all over the ground, and the analysts are trying to determine the shape of clouds.