Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2007

Update: The Music Industry in 2006

by John R. Wells and Elizabeth Raabe

Abstract

The global recorded music industry was undergoing a major transition in 2006. Sales had been declining for a decade, and consumers were buying music in new formats and through different distribution channels. CD sales still accounted for the majority of revenues, but sales of music in digital formats (downloads, videos, ringtones) were growing significantly and accounting for approximately 10% of the industry's revenues in 2006. Many considered digital the future of the music business but the format posed both opportunities and challenges. While it had revitalized the singles market, for instance, digital had also facilitated rampant piracy. The music industry was retaliating, launching lawsuits against illegitimate peer-to-peer operators such as groups caught downloading illegally. Whether this would be enough to stop the trend was a matter of much debate. Meanwhile, the industry continued to consolidate. In 2004, Sony Music and BMG, the third- and fifth-largest record firms at the time, merged to form Sony BMG. Surprisingly, in 2006 the European Union's Court of First Instance annulled the merger--which the European Commission had approved two years earlier--after a group of independent music labels complained about the merger's effect on competition. While Sony and BMG were defending the merger in court, EMI Group plc wondered if its desired takeover of Warner Music Group--which it had been pursuing since 2000--would ever happen. If it did, how much business would the new entity have in the rapidly changing environment? All wondered how the industry would evolve.

Keywords: History; Arts; Music Entertainment; Intellectual Property; Market Timing; Performance Evaluation; Trends; Music Industry;

Citation:

Wells, John R., and Elizabeth Raabe. "Update: The Music Industry in 2006." Harvard Business School Case 707-531, February 2007.