It looks like the music industry’s biggest player is getting even bigger. Universal Music Group, which boasts more than a 40 percent share of music sales, from The Beatles’ catalog to pop goddess Rihanna, announced Tuesday the acquisition of U.K.-based Eagle Rock Entertainment. The move follows UMG’s $1.9 billion acquisition in 2012 of EMI’s recorded music arm, which gave it access to artists like Katy Perry and The Beach Boys. The company continues to blaze forward in search of more artists and a bigger market share. With the Eagle Rock acquisition, UMG also displayed an ability to pinpoint and procure innovative revenue streams — specifically for the growing market of visual components (DVDs, Blu-Ray) to go along with the recorded audio.
While Eagle Rock possesses a small music label (Eagle Records) with such artists as Ron Wood and The Counting Crows on the roster, their real specialty is high-quality marriages of audio and visual elements, filming both live concerts as well as documentaries for some of music’s biggest names. The Doors documentary “When You’re Strange”, which won a Grammy in 2010, is representative of Eagle Rock’s impressive oeuvre that includes over 800 titles.
As the market for music becomes more and more commodified, and artists receive fractions of a cent per 1,000 plays on streaming sites like Spotify, the music industry is looking for other revenue streams to pick up the slack. The production of HD-quality and 3D-capable live concerts and filmed documentaries allows artists to appeal to both the aural and visual senses in an intimate setting, all for the fraction of a price of concert tickets or backstage passes.
For those in on the business side, filmed DVDs can be bundled along with albums, custom liner notes, artwork, and other merchandise.
The good news for both UMG and Eagle Rock is that the market for these types of media is growing. Even in this era of accessibility, when you can watch entire concerts uploaded from someone’s iPhone onto YouTube, discerning consumers are still willing to pay for a professionally filmed, expertly paced concert. Rather than appealing to casual fans of music, as much of the industry marketing does (“You liked this band. Spotify suggests you listen to …”), these in-depth, behind-the-scenes films appeal to the hardcore fanbase of individual artists and bands, many of whom might have been at the concert and now want a flawless memento of their experience.
When the Scorsese-directed concert documentary “The Last Waltz”, which chronicled the final performance of The Band, debuted in 1978, it was one of the first of its kind. “The Last Waltz” is still legendary, but it is now just one of thousands of quality concert documentaries, live tapings and multimedia projects. One of the leading arbiters of this movement, Eagle Rock, now falls under the ever-widening purview of Universal Music Group. Look out for Rihanna’s top-quality concert documentary in stores next year!