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At What Price Genius? Now We Know
Thursday, December 8, 2016

Warner Music Group filed its annual report today, and as we skimmed the Contingencies section we noticed an interesting disclosure: “Talent Advances.” Warner fronted $288 million to its artists in its 2016 fiscal year, and $318 million the year before that.

We respect the genius of Beyonce, Radiohead, Bonnie Raitt, and other Warner artists as much as anyone, and don’t begrudge them the money. (We are befuddled by the appeal of Josh Groban, and didn’t even know Blink 182 was still around, but whatever; they’re entitled to compensation too.) Still, seeing that disclosure piqued our curiousity—just how much does Warner advance to its artists, anyway?

Thankfully, Calcbench lets you satisfy those data cravings with a few taps of the keyboard. First we visited the Disclosures & Footnotes Query page, to research Warner’s disclosure of contingencies for the last five years. Talent advances have been a regular item there, and we could identify those expenses back to 2010 in less than 60 seconds.

Next, we jumped to the Company in Detail page and looked up Warner’s revenues and operating income back to 2010. You can do that easily as well thanks to our Show All History feature, which lets you see every disclosure a company has reported, as far back as Calcbench databases go.

We compiled all that data in a spreadsheet, and the result is this:

Or, to show the change in talent advances over time, here is a line graph:

What do these numbers tell us? Clearly that we should have stuck with those musical lessons in school so we, too, could be Grammy-nominated artists getting big advances. But they do prove that Calcbench databases are fast and precise (we found all this data in less than 3 minutes), and can provide hours of entertainment as well as the usual financial analysis.

We close today with Warner artist Herb Alpert covering Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” Groove on.

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