Rob Stringer plans to “drive a culture of entrepreneurship” across Sony Music as CEO – while spearheading a “very aggressive” worldwide investment strategy.
These were two of the overriding messages from Stringer’s first address as boss of the music company on Tuesday (May 23) – and MBW has all the details.
Speaking to analysts and Sony Corp shareholders in Tokyo, Stringer confirmed that the Sony Music International HQ in London has officially been eliminated – as indicated by the exit of that division’s boss, Edgar Berger, in January.
Instead, Sony Music’s regional ex-US regional heads now report directly into its global headquarters in New York.
“Today we have a more efficient, streamlined structure,” said Stringer. “We have eliminated the international HQ layer, to create direct lines between our New York centers, our US creative centers and our international operations.”
“Our business is our people, and we feel this enables greater co-ordination and collaboration between our business units – and provides a nimbleness in executing initiatives and strategies from New York.”
Rob Stringer, Sony Music
The move follows a similar reshuffle by Sir Lucian Grainge at Universal Music Group in late 2015 and early 2016.
Added Stringer: “Our business is our people, and we feel this enables greater co-ordination and collaboration between our business units – and provides a nimbleness in executing initiatives and strategies from New York.”
And in what could be read as a characterization of the type of executive Sony will be hiring for the now-vacant top jobs at Columbia and Epic, Stringer continued: “In addition to having a more effective structure, I will drive a culture of entrepreneurship.
“Our business units will be run by smart, risk-taking entrepreneurs who are natural self-starters and innovative in how they source talent, how they think about positioning and marketing that talent – and how they run their [labels].”
Cards close to his chest, then – but Stringer was certainly more forthright when it came to Sony’s ability to splash the cash on new artist deals and catalogue acquisitions.
“We’ll be very aggressive in our investment strategy,” he added.
“As the [music] industry is now growing again, it is essential that, in addition to being strong marketeers, we expand our creative reach and increase our repertoire flow by investing in catalogue acquisitions, securing new deals with established talent, pursuing licensing and distribution deals [and] creating joint ventures and partnering with new entrepreneurs.”
Sony has considerably out-spent its rivals in terms of company buyouts in the past three years – investing what MBW estimates is more than $1bn on music acquisitions since early 2015.
It acquired the 50% stake in distributor The Orchard it didn’t already control for $200m in March 2015.
A spate of Sony Music UK-led buyouts then followed including Ministry Of Sound (£67m), Essential Music & Marketing (£3.7m), Century Media (£12.2m) and an additional 50% stake in Simon Cowell’s Syco Holdings (£86.5m).
“We’ll be very aggressive in our investment strategy… It is critical that we move quickly [on] our investment strategy.”
Rob Stringer, Sony Music
And in October last year, a giant music publishing deal arrived when Sony Corp laid out $750m to acquire the 50% in Sony/ATV it didn’t already own.
Now, MBW is hearing that Sony is a front-runner to acquire Dutch label Spinnin’ Records in a deal likely to be worth north of $100m – having already snapped up indie distributors Phonofile and finetunes this year.
In a clear recommendation for Sony Corp to keep the money flowing, Stringer added: “It is critical that we move quickly [on] our investment strategy to ensure that we get the full and immediate benefit of our expanding content base in this growing music market.”
He added: “Our further investment in The Orchard is a key piece in this strategy. We strongly believe we can profitably grow this business and expand the artist, label and distribution services that we provide to indie labels and unsigned artists – a growing segment in the digital music sphere.”
Discussing his key priorities as CEO, the British exec commented: “My vision for Sony Music is to be a global entertainment leader dedicated to building artist brands, long-term careers and maximizing profit at the same time.
“We will have the best creative teams in the industry, promoting a culture of entrepreneurial innovation, leveraging available data in our decision-making process and aggressively seeking growth investments and new revenue opportunities.”
Rob Stringer, Sony Music
“This will be accomplished by having the best creative teams in the industry, promoting a culture of entrepreneurial innovation, leveraging the available data and analytics in our decision-making process and aggressively seeking growth investments and new revenue opportunities.”
Referencing his new international setup, Stringer said he intended to “make the most of our local teams to ensure they are identifying and signing the best talent in the marketplace”.
He spoke of his confidence that streaming would continue to grow the global recorded music business, boosted by recent entrants to the on-demand market – including Amazon, Pandora and iHeartRadio – as well as further product innovation, especially around voice activation.
Data was a key theme of Stringer’s address, as he made clear his desire to ensure Sony has the best digital tools to assist A&R discovery.
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