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Warner Music announces downsizing as new boss Robert Kyncl puts focus on new tech

By | Published on Thursday 30 March 2023

Warner Music

The new boss of Warner Music has told his staff that the major plans to downsize its global team, with around 270 roles – about 4% of the current workforce – set to be cut. It’s part of a mission to position the Warner Music Group at the “intersection of creativity and technology”.

It’s no secret that new CEO Robert Kyncl, with his background at YouTube, is particularly interested in pushing ahead with a number of new tech initiatives at Warner to capitalise on new opportunities he sees ahead as the digital market continues to evolve. The revamp and cutbacks outlined in a memo to Warner staff yesterday seem to be part of that plan.

“The music business is filled with new possibilities”, he wrote, “more fans are engaging with artists and songs than ever, our reach is enormous, and new business models are constantly emerging. WMG is positioning itself for this new phase of growth at the intersection of creativity and technology”.

“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”, he then added.

“Consistent with this direction, we’ve made the tough decision to reduce our global team by approximately 270 people, or about 4%. At the same time, we’re reallocating resources towards new skills for artist and songwriter development and new tech initiatives. We’re also reducing discretionary spending and open positions to provide us with additional flexibility for our future”.

“I want to be clear”, he insisted, “that this is not a blanket cost-cutting exercise. Every decision has been made thoughtfully by our operators around the world, who considered the specific needs, skills, and priorities of each label, division, and territory, in order to set us up for long-term success. The leader of your division will either be holding a town hall or sending an email to explain more about this path forward”.

Most of those affected by the downsizing should know about it later today. “I’m acutely aware of how unsettling this can be”, Kyncl noted in his memo. “I know this transition will be tough, but we’re committed to supporting you during this process”.

Concluding, he stated: “I learned when I joined WMG that this is a gritty, incredibly resourceful, and highly impactful team that I want by my side every day of the week. We deliver for our artists, songwriters, and labels with laser focus, inventiveness, and care. And now, more than ever, we need to double down on that. Let’s support each other with empathy and integrity as we work through this process”.

As Kyncl told staff about his plans for global evolution at the major, Warner Music UK announced a revamp of its own which will see the company’s frontline labels – Parlophone, Warner Records UK, Roadrunner, FFRR and Elektra Entertainment – more closely aligned, sharing more support services than before, especially beyond A&R and marketing.

In terms of people, Isabel Garvey returns to Warner UK as Chief Operating Officer, and Jennifer Ivory moves over from the Warner Records label to become MD of Parlophone. Meanwhile, Parlophone Co-Presidents Nick Burgess and Mark ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, and General Manager Jack Melhuish, are all leaving the business.

“In the modern, rapidly evolving digital business, we’re always pushing for the most agile and forward-thinking ways to super-serve our talent”, says Warner Music UK boss Tony Harlow. “The market is increasingly fragmented, and it takes more expertise to service all channels and to serve them properly. Our artists need more specialists to explore every available opportunity”.

“With Parlophone and Warner Records UK coming together and drawing on the expertise of our new centralised coalition”, he reckons, “we will harness our collective firepower and lean on a wide range of proficient minds to take the company forward”.

“Isabel’s appointment signals our constant evolution, bringing her widely admired creativity, innovation and technological entrepreneurship to the service of our artists and their visions”, Harlow adds.

“Jen has been with us for over fourteen years and has grown into one of the most exceptional and influential voices at WMUK and one of our best marketeers. She supervised four number one albums last year alone. Under her leadership, Parlophone’s employees will be dedicated to signing and developing the next generation of outstanding talent”.

And on the exits, he says, “I’d like to thank Nick and Mitch for an outstanding job at Parlophone. They’ve been strong and thoughtful leaders in difficult times and, in partnership with Jack, have had a real impact that has been vital for Parlophone’s growth. We wish them well in their future adventures”.

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