Speaking today at a panel during the Guardian Changing Media Summit, Universal Music UK's Paul Smernicki discussed the changing face of the music industry as streaming music services become more prevalent. Smernicki made the obvious point that Universal was deeply concerned about Spotify's potential to hurt sales of music on physical media. The company conducted an internal study "almost unobjectively" looked for evidence of cannibalization, but Smernicki said "we've been unable to find that evidence." In fact, apparently the growth digital revenue (which presumably includes both streaming and digital sales) in European countries with Spotify is around 40 percent as compared to 10 percent in countries without.
Universal Music UK's softening attitude towards streaming music almost exactly matches what we heard last month from Warner Music Group, when Edgar Bronfman, Jr. called streaming music "incrementally positive" to WMG's bottom line. Revenue from streaming media at WMG grew 36 percent last quarter, but still accounts for a very small portion of overall revenue. However total digital sales have already surpassed physical, at least in terms of units.
Smernicki of Universal UK believes that the music industry has finally found its feet and is "not in a terminal decline" anymore. Even so, it's not likely that the labels will return to the same outsized profits they once enjoyed.