Warner Music Group (WMG) is reportedly laying off approximately 270 employees – or roughly 4% of its global team – and spearheading a seemingly far-reaching executive-level reorganization.
WMG CEO Robert Kyncl, who became the major label’s sole CEO at February’s start, just recently announced the personnel cutbacks in an internally circulated memo, according to outlets including Variety. And Warner Music UK emailed DMN this morning about a collection of “strategic changes” – suggesting that the team-size reduction is being accompanied by an extensive executive-level reorganization.
On the layoff front, the former YouTube chief business officer Kyncl during his company’s Q4 earnings call acknowledged that the three-month stretch had been “tough” – while also touching upon plans to “very thoughtfully” redirect “resources to accelerate our technology investments.”
Warner Music posted YoY falloffs in Q4 recorded music revenue (down 10.6%, including an almost 32% decline for physical and a 7.7% digital slip) as well as net income (down 34%). For reference, Sony Music Entertainment reported a double-digit Q4 revenue jump (fueled in large part by a 33.3% YoY streaming hike on the recorded side), whereas Universal Music Group achieved similarly strong results (a 19% YoY boost for recorded music streaming income among them).
It’s against this backdrop that Kyncl revealed his company’s layoffs, pointing to a “need to make some hard choices in order to evolve” in a nearly 500-word-long message to staff.
“In my discussions with our leaders across the company, many of them came to the same conclusion – that to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of us, we need to make some hard choices in order to evolve,” Kyncl indicated, according to a copy of his comments. “Consistent with this direction, we’ve made the tough decision to reduce our global team by approximately 270 people, or about 4%.”
Additionally, the former Netflix VP of content, in keeping with the aforesaid remarks delivered during WMG’s Q4 earnings call, noted that the Big Three label is “reallocating resources towards new skills for artist and songwriter development and new tech initiatives.” WMG has further moved to slice discretionary spending and open positions, per the text.
Higher-ups were preparing to reach out to impacted staffers “within 24 hours,” according to the memo from Kyncl, who communicated that he would “have more to say about all of this at our next All-Hands meeting.”
At the time of writing, none of the affected professionals appeared to have penned LinkedIn posts about the news, and Warner Music Group didn’t seem to have publicly acknowledged the layoffs themselves with a formal release. But the previously mentioned email from Warner Music UK is shedding light upon WMG’s broader reorganization plans.
As part of the latter, Abbey Road Studios managing director Isabel Garvey will start as Warner Music UK’s first chief operating officer on Tuesday, May 9th, with Warner Records UK SVP Jennifer Ivory taking over as MD for Parlophone Records. Meanwhile, Parlophone co-presidents Nick Burgess and Mark Mitchell, along with general manager Jack Melhuish, are expected to “exit the label.”
Expanding upon the changes, Parlophone is set to “join Warner Records UK, Roadrunner, FFRR [Full Frequency Range Recordings] and Elektra Entertainment in a newly created coalition of labels which will sit under the overall guidance of Warner Records UK” head Joe Kentish, the major label relayed.
Next, according to WMG’s convoluted (and nearly 1,000-word-long) release about the leadership pivots, Parlophone will nevertheless “maintain independent A&R and marketing functions” while beginning to “draw on a centralised team of experts and adopt a shared service approach to the other key functions.”
Ivory “will continue to provide some marketing support to Warner Records UK” and is poised to report to both Warner Music UK CEO Tony Harlow and Kentish, who’s preparing to “supervise and refocus Parlophone’s A&R team.”
Finally, Atlantic Records UK vet Claire Coster has been elevated “to a centralised Director of Publicity post,” where she will oversee “all talent press across” Warner Music UK. Plus, Colette Carey (recently named VP of artist relations) will also lead a centralized artist-relations team for Warner Music UK, and the “trailblazer” Jane Arthy has been upped to the unit’s SVP of promotions.
“Sebastian Simone will continue his innovative work in Web3 and the metaverse as VP of Community,” Warner Music penned of the sweeping shakeup and consolidation, “and Theresa Adebiyi also joins as Creative Director.” Arthy, Simone, and Adebiyi alike “will work across Parlophone and Warner Records UK and strengthen both label offerings, especially in data and emerging digital technologies,” according to the announcement message.
WMG’s cuts and reorganization arrive as many companies operating in (or around) the music industry – such as Downtown, Amazon/Twitch, Meta, UMG’s Motown, and Spotify – are likewise trimming the size of their respective teams.
Once again at the time of writing, Warner Music stock (NASDAQ: WMG) was hovering around $32.64 per share – up slightly from yesterday’s close. Last month, just days after Kyncl took over WMG, Vanguard Group increased its stake in the business to approximately 10.42 million shares, or about 7.6% of the company.