Sony Music

Sony Music Entertainment (SME), known as Sony Music, is an American global music conglomerate owned by Sony and incorporated as a general partnership of Sony Music Holdings Inc. through Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Japanese Sony Corporation.[2] It was originally founded in 1929 as American Record Corporation and renamed as Columbia Recording Corporation in 1938, following its acquisition by the Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1966, the company was reorganized to become CBS Records, and Sony Corporation bought the company in 1988, renaming it under its current name in 1991. In 2004, Sony and Bertelsmann established a 50-50 joint venture known as Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which transferred the businesses of Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group into one entity. However, in 2008, Sony acquired Bertelsmann's stake, and the company reverted to the SME name shortly after; the buyout allowed Sony to acquire all of BMG's labels, and led to the dissolution of BMG, which instead relaunched as BMG Rights Management.

Sony Music Entertainment is the second largest of the "Big Three" record companies, behind Universal Music Group and ahead of Warner Music Group. Its music publishing division Sony/ATV is the largest music publisher in the world.[3][4] It also owns 50% of SYCO Entertainment, which operates some of the world's most successful reality TV formats, including Got Talent and The X Factor.[5]

Sony Music Entertainment
Formerly
American Record Corporation (1929–1938)
Columbia Recording Corporation (1938–1947)
Columbia Records Inc. (1947–1965)
CBS Records (1965–1991)
Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (1991-2004)
Sony BMG Music Entertainment (2004–2008)
Subsidiary
Incorporated as a general partnership
Industry
GenreVarious
Founded1929
Headquarters,
United States
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Rob Stringer
(CEO)
ProductsMusic and entertainment
RevenueIncrease US$7.27 billion [1] (FY 2017)
Increase US$1.16 billion [1] (FY 2017)
OwnerSony Corporation
ParentSony Entertainment
DivisionsSee List of Sony Music Entertainment labels
Websitesonymusic.com

History

1929–1938: American Record Corporation

The American Record Corporation (ARC) was founded in 1929 through a merger of several record companies.[6] The company grew for the next several years, acquiring other brands such as the Columbia Phonograph Company, including its Okeh Records subsidiary, in 1934.[7]

1938–1970: Columbia/CBS Records

In 1938, ARC was acquired by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) under the guidance of chief executive William S. Paley. The company was later renamed Columbia Recording Corporation,[8] and changed again to Columbia Records Inc. in 1947.[9] Edward Wallerstein, who served as the head of Columbia Records since the late 1930s, helped establish the company as a leader in the record industry by spearheading the successful introduction of the LP record.[10] Columbia's success continued through the 1950s with the launch of Epic Records in 1953[11] and Date Records in 1958.[12] By 1962, the Columbia Records productions unit was operating four plants around the United States located in Los Angeles, California; Terre Haute, Indiana; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Pitman, New Jersey.[13]

Columbia's international arm was launched in 1962 under the name "CBS Records," as the company only owned the rights to the Columbia name in North America.[14] In 1964, the company began acquiring record companies in other countries for its CBS Records International unit[15] and established its own UK distribution outfit with the acquisition of Oriole Records.[16]

By 1966, Columbia was renamed as CBS Records and was a separate unit of parent company, CBS-Columbia Group.[17][18] In March 1968, CBS and Sony formed CBS/Sony Records, a Japanese business joint venture.[19]

1971–1991: CBS Records Group

In 1971, CBS Records was expanded into its own "CBS Records Group", with Clive Davis as its administrative vice president and general manager.[20] In the 1980s to the early 1990s, the company managed several successful labels, including CBS Associated Records,[21] which signed artists including Ozzy Osbourne, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Jett, and Henry Lee Summer.[22] By 1987, CBS was the only "big three" American TV network to have a co-owned record company.[23] With Sony being one of the developers behind the compact disc digital music media, a compact disc production plant was constructed in Japan under the joint venture, allowing CBS to begin supplying some of the first compact disc releases for the American market in 1983.[24]

On November 17, 1987, Sony acquired CBS Records for US$2 billion. CBS Inc., now CBS Corporation, retained the rights to the CBS name for music recordings but granted Sony a temporary license to use the CBS name.[25] The sale was completed on January 5, 1988.[26] CBS Corporation founded a new CBS Records in 2006, which was distributed by Sony through its RED subsidiary.[27]

1991–2004: Birth of Sony Music Entertainment

Sony renamed the record company Sony Music Entertainment (SME) on January 1, 1991, fulfilling the terms set under the 1988 buyout, which granted only a transitional license to the CBS trademark.[28] The CBS Associated label was renamed Epic Associated.[29] Also on January 1, 1991, to replace the CBS label, Sony reintroduced the Columbia label worldwide, which it previously held in the United States and Canada only, after it acquired the international rights to the trademark from EMI in 1990.[28] Japan is the only country where Sony does not have rights to the Columbia name as it is controlled by Nippon Columbia, an unrelated company.[30] Thus, Sony Music Entertainment Japan issues labels under Sony Records. The Columbia Records trademark's rightsholder in Spain was Bertelsmann Music Group, Germany, which Sony Music subsequently subsumed via a 2004 merger, and a subsequent 2008 buyout.[31]

In 1995, Sony and Michael Jackson formed a joint venture which merged Sony's music publishing operations with Jackson's ATV Music to form Sony/ATV Music Publishing.[32]

2004–2008: Sony BMG: Joint venture with Bertelsmann

Bertelsmann Music Group Logo

In August 2004, Sony entered joint venture with equal partner Bertelsmann, by merging Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group, Germany, to establish Sony BMG Music Entertainment.[33] However Sony continued to operate its Japanese music business independently from Sony BMG while BMG Japan was made part of the merger.[34]

The merger made Columbia and Epic sister labels to RCA Records, which was once owned by CBS rival, NBC.[35] It also started the process of bringing BMG's Arista Records back under common ownership with its former parent Columbia Pictures, a Sony division since 1989, and also brought Arista founder Clive Davis back into the fold.[36] As of 2017, Davis was still with Sony Music as chief creative officer.[37]

2008–present: Sony Music Entertainment and restructuring

On August 5, 2008, Sony Corporation of America (SCA) and Bertelsmann announced that Sony had agreed to acquire Bertelsmann's 50% stake in Sony BMG. The company completed the acquisition on October 1, 2008.[38] On July 1, 2009, SME and IODA announced a strategic partnership to leverage worldwide online retail distribution networks and complementary technologies to support independent labels and music rights holders.[39][40] In March 2010, Sony Corp partnered with The Michael Jackson Company in a contract of more than $250 million, the largest deal in recorded music history.[41]

Doug Morris, who was head of Warner Music Group, and later Universal Music, became chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment on July 1, 2011.[42] Sony Music underwent restructuring upon Morris' arrival; with some artists switching labels while other labels were shut down altogether.[43][44][45][46][47]

In June 2012, a consortium led by Sony/ATV acquired EMI Music Publishing, making Sony/ATV the world's largest music publisher at the time.[48]

In July 2014, Sony Music sold the historic Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged building in Nashville, Tennessee to Vanderbilt University for $12.1 million.[49]

Rob Stringer became CEO of Sony Music Entertainment on April 1, 2017.[50] He previously served as Chairman and CEO of Columbia Records.

Sony has experienced a number of changes with its international labels. In March 2012, Sony Music reportedly closed its Philippines office due to piracy, causing it to move distribution of SME in the Philippines to Ivory Music, until 2018 when SME resumed its Philippines operation.[51] In July 2013, Sony Music withdrew from the Greek market due to an economic crisis.[52] Albums released by Sony Music in Greece from domestic and foreign artists would then be carried by Feelgood Records.[53]

In June 2017, Sony announced that by March 2018 it would be producing vinyl records in-house for the first time since ceasing their production in 1989.[54] Reporting the decision, the BBC noted that, "Sony's move comes a few months after it equipped its Tokyo studio with a cutting lathe, used to produce the master discs needed for manufacturing vinyl records" but added that "Sony is even struggling to find older engineers who know how to make records".[54]

On February 5, 2019, a group of 1970s-era musicians including David Johansen and John Waite filed lawsuits accusing Sony and UMG Recordings Inc of improperly refusing to let them reclaim the rights to songs they had signed away earlier in their careers.[55] The lawsuit cites U.S. copyright law, which gives artists who formerly bargained away their rights on unfavorable terms a chance to reclaim those rights by filing termination notices after 35 years.[56] The plaintiffs claim that Sony and UMG have “routinely and systematically” ignored hundreds of notices, having taken the position that recordings are “works made for hire” and are therefore not subject to being reclaimed.[55]

Sony Music UK

Sony Music UK is owned and operated by Sony Music Entertainment in the United Kingdom. Since 2014, Jason Iley has been Chairman and CEO of Sony Music UK. Though owned by Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Music UK has standalone operations in the UK to promote musicians within the UK.[57]

In June 2017, it was announced that Sony would be merging its two independent distribution companies The Orchard and Red Essential.[58]

2014 saw Sony's best singles success for 33 years, with 11 number 1 singles. Sony Music artists won a total of five individual awards at the BRITs 2015, including Best Female Solo Artist for Paloma Faith and Mark Ronson's 'Uptown Funk', which picked up Best British Single. Several other of the label's artists - Foo Fighters, One Direction and Pharrell Williams - also collected awards.[59][60]

Sony's performance at the BRITs 2015 was the label's best in nearly 20 years, winning a total of 5 awards. In 2017, Sony Music UK celebrated the most successful BRIT Awards in the company's history, winning seven of the 11 awards.

In the last three years, Sony Music UK has made key acquisitions including forming Insanity Records with Insanity Management. Craig David became the first artist to sign an album deal with Insanity Records. Sony Music UK signed Robbie Williams, who released his 11th album 'The Heavy Entertainment Show' in 2016. Jason Iley commented that the agreement was "a once in a lifetime signing with the biggest male solo artist of our generation." [61][62]

Sony Music UK also incorporated the independent sales and distribution company Essential Music and Marketing - renamed to Red Essential. In August 2016 Sony Music acquired Ministry of Sound Recordings, home to London Grammar, DJ Fresh and Sigala.[63][64]

On April 5, 2017, two of Sony Music UK's labels won awards at the annual Music Week Awards. Columbia Records received the 'A&R of the Year' Award, while Syco were awarded the 'Record Company of the Year' Award.[65]

Controversies

CD price fixing

Between 1995 and 2000, music companies were found to have used illegal marketing agreements such as minimum advertised pricing to artificially inflate prices of compact discs. This was done in order to end price wars of the early 1990s among discounters such as Best Buy and Target.[66] A settlement was reached in 2002 that included music publishers and distributors Sony Music, Warner Music, Bertelsmann Music Group, EMI Music and Universal Music. In restitution for price fixing, they agreed to pay a $67.4 million fine and distribute $75.7 million in CDs to public and non-profit groups but admitted no wrongdoing.[67] It is estimated that customers were overcharged by nearly $500 million overall and up to $5 per album.[66]

Michael Jackson and Tommy Mottola

The release of Invincible was preceded by a dispute between Michael Jackson and Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s, after which he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and keep the profits; however, clauses in the contract set the revert date years into the future. Jackson discovered that the attorney who had represented him in the deal had also been representing Sony.[68] He was also concerned that for years Sony had been pressuring him to sell his share in its music catalog venture; he feared that Sony might have had a conflict of interest, since if Jackson's career failed, he would have had to sell his share of the catalog at a low price.[69] Jackson sought an early exit from his contract.[68]

In July 2002, Jackson alleged that the then-Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola was a "devil" and "racist" who did not support his African-American artists, using them merely for his own gain.[69] He charged that Mottola had called his colleague Irv Gotti a "fat nigger".[70] Sony refused to renew Jackson's contract, and claimed that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because Jackson refused to tour in the United States.[71]

Prosecution of copyright infringement

In May 2012, Sony Music filed charges against the website IsoHunt.[72] The plaintiff's claims in the court document filed at the Supreme Court of British Columbia read: "The IsoHunt Websites have been designed and are operated by the defendants with the sole purpose of profiting from rampant copyright infringement which defendants actively encourage, promote, authorize, induce, aid, abet, materially contribute to and commercially profit from."[73] On February 2016, in a lawsuit filed at a California federal court, Sony Music Entertainment and its associated brands (Arista Records and LaFace Records) accused Belgian radio aggregator Radionomy (owned by Universal Music Group's parent Vivendi) of copyright infringement.[74]

2016 boycott

In February 2016, 100,000 people signed an online petition in less than 24 hours, calling for a boycott of Sony Music and all other Sony-affiliated businesses after rape allegations against music producer Dr. Luke were made by musical artist Kesha. Kesha asked a New York City Supreme Court to free her from her contract with Sony Music but the court denied the request, prompting a widespread public and media response.[75]

List of Sony Music Entertainment labels

Flagship labels

Limited Liability companies

Genre-limited labels

Country
Christian/Gospel
Dance/Electronic
Latin
Classical/Jazz
Metal
Progressive
Independent distribution
Catalog
Distributed Labels
International

Previously affiliated labels

See also

References

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External links

Arista Nashville

Arista Nashville is an American record label that serves as a wholly owned division of Sony Music, operated under the Sony Music Nashville division. Founded in 1989, the label specializes in country music artists, including Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley, Chris Young, Beau Davidson, and Carrie Underwood. The label used to operate three sister labels: Career Records, Arista Austin, and Arista Latin. It was a subsidiary of Arista Records, but after the dissolution, it was not affected and remains a Sony Music label.

Epic Records

Epic Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, Inc., the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. The label was founded predominantly as a jazz and classical music label in 1953, but later expanded its scope to include a more diverse range of genres, including pop, R&B, rock, and hip hop. Epic Records has released music by artists including Glenn Miller, Tammy Wynette, George Michael, The Yardbirds, Donovan, Shakin Stevens, Europe, Cheap Trick, Meat Loaf, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ted Nugent, Shakira, Sly & the Family Stone, The Hollies, Celine Dion, ABBA, Culture Club, Boston, Dave Clark Five, Gloria Estefan, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and Michael Jackson. Along with Arista, Columbia and RCA Records, Epic is one of Sony Music Entertainment's four flagship record labels.

Artists who have signed to Epic Records include French Montana, Fiona Apple, Sara Bareilles, Jennifer Lopez, Keyshia Cole, Future, Hardwell, Fifth Harmony, Jennifer Hudson, Zara Larsson, Mariah Carey, Outkast, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross, 21 Savage, Travis Scott, DJ Khaled, Meghan Trainor, Camila Cabello, Wrabel, and Swizz Beatz.

Legacy Recordings

Legacy Recordings is an American record label that is a division of Sony Music. Formed in 1990 after Sony's acquisition of CBS Records, Legacy originally handled the archives of Sony Music-owned labels Columbia Records and Epic Records. In 2004, under the Sony BMG joint venture, the label began to manage the archives of RCA Records, J Records, Windham Hill Records, Arista, LaFace, Jive, and Buddah Records. Legacy Recordings now also handles Philadelphia International Records and the catalog of recordings produced by Phil Spector.

This is not to be confused with the defunct British independent label Legacy Records.

List of Sony Music labels

This is a list of record labels owned by, or associated with Sony Music.

RCA Records Nashville

RCA Nashville is an American country music record label based in Nashville, Tennessee. It is distributed by Sony Music Nashville which is part of Sony Music.

Sony BMG

Sony BMG Music Entertainment was an American record company owned as a 50–50 joint venture between Sony Corporation of America and Bertelsmann Music Group. The venture's successor, the revived Sony Music Entertainment, is wholly owned by Sony, following their buyout of the remaining 50% held by Bertelsmann AG. BMG was instead rebuilt as BMG Rights Management on the basis of 200 remaining artists.

Sony Music Australia

Sony Music Entertainment Australia is the predominant record label operated by American parent company Sony Music Entertainment in Australia. Sony Music Entertainment Australia as of July 2017 also runs British multimedia Ministry of Sound Recordings' Australian operations on behalf of Sony Music UK, taking over from recently renamed TMRW Music, formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of Ministry of Sound until 2004.

Sony Music Entertainment Japan

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. (株式会社ソニー・ミュージックエンタテインメント, Kabushiki gaisha Sonī Myūjikku Entateinmento), often abbreviated as SMEJ or simply SME, and also known as Sony Music Japan for short, is Sony's music arm in Japan. SMEJ is directly owned by Sony Corporation and independent from the United States-based Sony Music Entertainment due to its strength in the Japanese music industry.

Its subsidiaries including the Japanese animation production enterprise, Aniplex, which was established in September 1995 as a joint-venture between Sony Music Entertainment Japan and Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan, but which in 2001 became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment Japan. It was prominent in the early to mid '90s producing and licensing music for animated series such as Roujin Z from acclaimed Japanese comic artist Katsuhiro Otomo and Capcom's Street Fighter animated series.

Until March 2007, Sony Music Japan also had its own North American sublabel, Tofu Records. Releases of Sony Music Japan now appear on Columbia Records and/or Epic Records in North America.

Sony does not have the trademark rights to the Columbia name in Japan, so releases under Columbia Records from another country appears on Sony Records in Japan, but retains the usage of the "walking eye" logo. The Columbia name and trademark is controlled by Nippon Columbia, which was, in fact, the licensee for the American Columbia Records up until 1968, even though relations were officially severed as far back as World War II. Nippon Columbia also does not have direct relations with the British Columbia Graphophone Company (an EMI subsidiary), so the licensee for the British Columbia Graphophone Company was actually Toshiba Musical Industries.

With Sony Corporation of America's buyout of Bertelsmann's stake in Sony BMG, Sony Music Entertainment Japan stepped in to acquire outstanding shares of BMG Music Japan from Sony BMG, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Japan.

Sony Music India

Sony Music Entertainment India is the predominant record label operated by Sony in India. The company began operation in 1997, and it was the first record company in India to be 100% foreign-owned, with Sony being a Japanese corporation. Since December 2013, the company distributes Warner Music Group releases for Indian and SAARC market. Sony Music India is the largest foreign-owned music label in India, and the country's second largest record label overall with up to 25% share of the Indian music market, after the local Indian label T-Series, and ahead of Zee Music which Sony has a partnership with.

Sony Music Latin

Sony Music Latin is a record label owned by Sony Music. The label focuses on artists of Latin music.

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