July 20, 2024

Advancing Business Journey

Empowering Business Excellence

How Universal Music Group Is Leveraging Data And Analytics To Serve Its Artists And Audience

5 min read

Universal Music Group (UMG) is a worldwide leader in the music and entertainment business. The largest music company in the world, it is one of the Big 3 record labels, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group. It’s roster of artists reads like a history of late 20 th and 21 st century music, ranging from contemporary megastars like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Snoop Dogg, and U2, to legendary artists including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Bob Marley, James, Brown, Tupac Shakur, and Johnny Cash. The UMG family also comprises such seminal recording labels and brands as Capitol Records, Decca, Abbey R0ad Studios, A&M Records, Interscope Geffen A&M (IGA), Motown, Island Records, Deutsche Grammophon, Virgin Records, Republic and Def Jam Recordings.

The origins of UMG date back to September 1934 with the formation of Decca Records, with the company’s name and logo originating from film pioneer Carl Laemmle’s Universal Pictures. Today, UMG has established itself as a worldwide leader in identifying and developing musical artists and produces and distributes much of the most popular and identifiable music one hears today. In doing so, UMG fosters the development of services, platforms, and business models, much of which is based on the leveraging of data and analytics to broaden artistic and commercial opportunities for artists and fans of its music.

Naras Eechambadi is Chief Global Data & Analytics Officer (CDAO), Consumer Marketing for Universal Music Group, a role that he assumed in 2021. He is their first CDAO. Prior to taking on the UMG role, Naras spent an entire career as a data pioneer and leader. Starting out with a PhD from the University of Texas, Eechambadi went on to roles with Nielsen and McKinsey, before becoming the head of data and analytics for First Union Bank (now Wells Fargo), where he was in effect one of the industry’s first Chief Data Officers, well before the role formally existed. He then founded and ran his own data and analytics services company, Quaero, which he ran for close to 20 years. Naras has spent his entire professional lifetime helping organizations use data and analytics to identify opportunities and deliver business value. He now brings this expertise to UMG.

Eechambadi reflects on his current mission, “At UMG, we see data as a vital element in understanding evolving tastes in music appreciation and consumption, and as a critical component of helping our artists understand and build better relationships with their audience and listeners – their fans. We use data to improve fan experiences on our artist sites and stores”. He notes that there is a great deal of interest and a desire to understand better ways of collecting, organizing, and analyzing data to provide UMG artists with more insight information and tools that help build audience relationships and value. He adds, “We are working on models to understand the value of our audience and our database, as well as understand the potential value of emerging artists that our businesses may want to sign. This helps our artists understand their markets and their followers better”.

For UMG, data is seen as a strategic asset of the business. Eechambadi notes that there are two kinds of behavioral data that the company focused on. The first type is data received from UMG partners such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube on the music that is being streamed on the major consumption platforms. The second type is behavioral data gathered and analyzed from thousands of individual websites and hundreds of stores that UMG manages on behalf of its artists. Eechambadi explains, “This allows us to understand the breadth and depth of engagement of fans with each artist and the makeup of each artist’s fan base”. He adds that his organization also looks at other kinds of data, including operational and financial data, which help UMG improve efficiency and effectiveness in many areas of the company.

One of the greatest impediments that any business faces when it comes to using data, regardless of industry, is the challenge of building a data-driven business culture. Especially for an industry founded upon artistry and human creativity, one might think that it is an even greater challenge. Eechambadi observes, “We are constantly engaging with our labels and other functional teams to help them understand and interpret data through a variety of tools and applications that give them direct access to data and analytics”.

He cites a recent example called FAME (Fan Analytics, Marketing, and E-Commerce), which are a set of dashboards that UMG launched one year ago to bring together information about marketing campaigns and related direct-to-fan revenue from the sale of music and merchandise. The FAME platform is now available to UMG labels and marketing teams in many countries and delivers the ability to understand on a daily basis the success of each individual campaign or product across any fan segment, geographically or demographically. Eechambadi notes, “They can then adjust existing product lines and marketing campaigns or uncover opportunities for new products. Since introducing FAME, we have trained hundreds of users across multiple labels and have several hundred regular users of the system across the company”.

UMG is using data and analytics to innovate in other ways in its business. The company’s FAN360 platform brings together multiple data sources to create a wholistic and comprehensive view of what can be known about each fan. This helps uncover ways to build additional value through new products and services which improve the customer experience. Eechambadi comments, “We have introduced sophisticated sales and revenue forecasting approaches to several of our businesses and predictive models that help identify the next best products to be offered to our customers across our sites and stores”. In addition, access to accurate and timely information about the effectiveness of marketing campaigns helps UMG make more informed investments in its products and services, and target customers more effectively with the right messaging. Looking to the future, Eechambadi adds, “We plan to continue to train various groups in an effort to improve awareness of available data, literacy about that data, and proficiency in using tools to access and analyze the data”.

We, as fans and listeners of these great creative artists, look forward to the future as Universal Music Group employs data, analytics, and explores other innovative uses of technology, to enhance the musical experience and the success of the artists, labels, brands, and worldwide audiences that it reaches and supports.

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