Sony Music Group (SMG) chairman Rob Stringer touted a strong fiscal year (for the period between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021) and revealed plans to expand the company’s Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program in a briefing to the company’s senior executives and investors delivered on May 25.
Speaking from New York, Stringer hailed what he described as “all-time high financial results,” resulting in record numbers in revenue, profits and margins, going on five consecutive years.
During that time, SMG’s global roster from its frontline labels — namely Columbia, RCA and Epic — increased by over 30% and its creative staff by more than 85%. The investment in talent, on both the artist and executive side, has yielded tangible results in the form of global successes like the Kid Laroi, Maneskin, Doja Cat and Lil Nas X, who got mentioned during the presentation. BTS also contributed significantly to SMG’s bottom line, via its former distribution deal with Sony-owned the Orchard; the K-pop group left the company for Universal Music Group in October 2021.
Also noted were Stringer’s own signings while head of Columbia: Harry Styles, who is poised for “the biggest selling global no.1 chart entry of the year” with the just-released “Harry’s House,” and Adele, whose “30” was the top-selling album of 2021 globally.
On the publishing front, Sony Music Publishing retained its No. 1 position, which its held worldwide since 2012. SMP writers averaged 33% of the weekly share of Spotify’s global top 100, up from 27% in 2020. Chief among them: Olivia Rodrigo , whose album “Sour” was an unstoppable mover in 2021 (the project’s primary producer, Daniel Nigro, is also signed to SMP).
Using Spotify as a barometer, Sony’s weekly share of the platform’s worldwide top 100 tracks ticked up only slightly to 36.1%, but its part of Spotify’s worldwide top ten jumped nearly 10% to 48.5%, up from 39% the previous fiscal year.
Recapping the company’s acquisitions and strategic investments, Stringer listed its majority stake in hip-hop label Alamo, home to Lil Durk; SMG’s purchase of dance music label Ultra “which has been very profitable for us over the years,” he noted; the recent final regulatory approval for artist services concern AWAL, which specializes in independent artists and DIY distribution; and Brazil’s top label Som Livre.
The catalog purchases of Bruce Springsteen (for recorded music rights and publishing) and of Bob Dylan (recorded music) also factored into SMP’s big spends.
Other noteworthy details included the $500 million in revenue SMP credits to new business categories like social, gaming and fitness, and the rise in revenue from ad supported audio and video services to the tune of 31.4% year over year.
But perhaps most significant are Sony’s plans going forward in its promise to be a creator-friendly company “searching for the most principled ways” to represent talent. That includes its bold step to wipe out unrecouped balances for artists signed prior to 2000, an initiative that will expand to include qualifying artists who have been signed to the label for more than 20 years. The first recipients of the broadened Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program will be the class of 2001 and continue on a rolling basis.
In its effort to do right by its artists and songwriters, Sony’s Artists and Songwriters Forward and Artist and Songwriter Assistance programs will continue to offer transparency and mental health services. “We believe in the wellbeing of our artists and songwriters,” said Stringer. “We want to lead by example.”
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