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Universal Music Group Preparing for Layoffs to Create ‘Efficiencies’ in Response to ‘Dynamic Market’

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As Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge forecast in an October earnings call, saying that the company would need to “cut to grow,” UMG is expected to begin laying off employees as soon as this quarter. 

Bloomberg first reported the news Friday morning (Jan. 12) that in the next few months hundreds of jobs will be cut from the company that has around 10,000 staffers worldwide.

A spokesperson for UMG declined to confirm the number or the timetable, but in a statement said, “We continue to position UMG to accelerate its leadership in music’s most promising growth areas and drive its transformation to capitalize on them.  Over the past several years, we have been investing in future growth—building our ecommerce and D2C operations, expanding geographically, and leveraging new technologies.  While we maintain our industry-leading investments in A&R and artist development, we are creating efficiencies in other areas of the business so we can remain nimble and responsive to the dynamic market, while realizing the benefits of our scale.”

In his New Year’s memo to the company, Grainge hinted at changes, writing the company will “further evolve our organizational structure.” 

Despite the cuts, Grainge has promised further growth. In his same memo, he noted UMG’s global growth in the past year, including the restructuring and expansion of distribution company Virgin Music Group into such areas as the Middle East, Africa, India and China.  

That is a plan that Grainge said promises to continue: “We will keep growing our presence around the world by doing just what we do in more established music markets: signing and developing local artists; providing local labels and entrepreneurs with global promotion, distribution, and a full suite of artist services; and acquiring local labels, catalogs and artist services businesses.”

The news comes while the U.S. recorded music industry continues to grow, despite the potential for streaming saturation and growing challenges from artificial intelligence. U.S. music consumption grew 12.6% in 2023 to 1.1 billion units (measured as album sales plus track equivalent albums and streaming equivalent albums), according to a year-end report issued by Luminate on Wednesday. With that double-digit gain, the U.S. market had its biggest one-year gain since consumption grew 15% in 2019.  

UMG remains the leader in U.S. market share, bolstered by artists like Taylor Swift, Morgan Wallen, Post Malone and Olivia Rodrigo. For 2023, its record label market share was 35.84%, up 33.57% from 2022.

Warner Music Group already experienced layoffs, cutting roughly 4% of its staff last year. 

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