Universal Music names Lucian Grainge as CEO


French media conglomerate Vivendi hopes it has found a leader inside its Universal Music Group to help guide it into the digital future.

Lucian Grainge, head of the music group’s international operation, has been named chief executive, starting Jan. 1, 2011.

Until then, he will share responsibilities with Chairman and Chief Executive Doug Morris, who said in November that he planned to step down from the executive post. Morris, 71, remains chairman of the music group.

Grainge, 49, has spent the last five years running operations in 50 countries outside of North America and is credited with expanding Universal Music’s reach through digital distribution as well as moving into new businesses, such as merchandise sales, live event production and artist services.

He assumes the reins of Universal Music at a time when music piracy continues to erode sales.

Universal Music, home to Eminem, the Black Eyed Peas and recent Grammy Award winners Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, reported a sales decline of 5.2% for the first nine months last year.

Digital sales rose 21% in the same period, but that wasn’t enough to offset falling demand for compact discs.

The label has attempted to mine sources of revenue through ventures such as its new ad-supported Vevo online music video service, developed with the help of Google Inc.’s YouTube.

Grainge said he has seen some success globally doing deals with emerging services like Spotify, the Swedish start-up that offers on-demand music streaming for free and as a paid subscription.

Nokia’s Comes With Music device, which gives customers a year’s worth of unlimited access to songs on their mobile phones, has done very well in certain markets, he said.