Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV Music Publishing started performing as one unit under Sony Music Group, from 1st August 2019. During the disclosure of the merger, Kenichiro Yoshida, President and CEO, Sony Corporation mentioned in his memo that the purpose of their new venture was to strengthen and solidify Sony’s position as a leader in the music industry. Since the merger was announced, Sony has ventured into a series of acquisitions of three different companies along with a joint venture in India, that insinuate their will to become the leading global music label.
On 31st July, Sony Music Masterworks, a record label, formed as a result of restructuring Sony Music’s classical music division, announced their acquisition of Milan Records, an international leader in film and television scores and soundtracks. Milan Records, in the past, have released the soundtracks to renowned and critically acclaimed classics such as Diva, Ghost, Backdraft, Benny & Joon as well as recent hits including The Revenant, Deadpool, Chef, Under The Skin, Birdman, Midsommar and Hereditary.
As part of this transaction, Sony Music Masterworks also acquired Milan’s sister label Jade, which comprises more than 500 liturgical and classical albums from across the globe. Under the agreement, JC Chamboredon, Senior Vice President, Milan Records and son of Emmanuel Chamboredon, will continue to run Milan Records, reporting to Mark Cavell, Sony Music Masterworks U.S. Label Head and COO International.
Sony Music Masterwork’s extension through Milan Records is a conspicuous way of strengthening their global distribution, marketing and promotion resources. Milan Records boasts an impressive catalogue of film and television soundtracks as well as independent artist releases and works with some of today’s most prominent filmmakers including Nicolas Winding Refn, Gaspar Noé and Alejandro González Iñárritu as well as an award-winning composer and artist Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Emmanuel Chamboredon, on this tie-up, commented,
“I am very grateful to Mark Cavell, who showed lots of energy and imagination in carving out the right place for Milan and Jade at Sony Music Masterworks.”
On 6th August 2019, not long after Sony Music Masterworks acquired Milan Records, it announced the acquisition of a majority stake at Senbla, a U.K. based concert promotion and production company.
Senbla has more than 200 concerts and shows a year to its repertoire throughout the U.K. Artists like
Joss Stone, Marc Almond, Burt Bacharach, Ennio Morricone, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Soft Cell, Beverley Knight, and Kristen Chenoweth.
Senbla’s Founder and CEO, Ollie Rosenblatt, will continue working alongside the Sony Music Masterworks management team, especially, Chief Operating Officer, Mark Cavell and U.K. Label Head, Sarah Thwaites, who will also serve on the Senbla Board of Directors.
The combination of Senbla with Sony Music Masterworks acts as a way for Sony to broaden their reach in live performance, not only for their artists and but also for content owners and consumers.
This was not the first time Sony ventured into the arena of live music. Previously, Sony acquired 49% of Berlin-based Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) Classics AG. From the deal, DEAG sold its shares from U.K. music, ballet & event promoter, Raymond Gubbay Ltd (RGL) to Sony Music Entertainment International Limited. In June 2018, Sony Music Masterworks acquired a 100% stake at RGL.
Sony Music’ Expansions
On 6th August 2019, The Thread Shop, the innovative merchandising division of Sony Music Entertainment, announced an agreement to acquire the music merchandise division of The Araca Group, a full-service theatrical production and entertainment merchandising company.
The Thread Shop designs, manufacture’s and markets fashionable and functional merchandise and lifestyle goods. Its artist partners include A$AP Ferg, Bob Dylan, DJ Khaled, Foreigner, Joan Jett, Lil Nas X, Maluma and Ozuna among others.
In connection with the acquisition, several members of The Araca Group’s music merchandising team joined The Thread Shop to continue active relationships and develop new opportunities for the integrated roster.
The Araca Group is a Tony Award-winning theatrical production company, as well as a leading Broadway, TV and film merchandising company. It was currently represented on Broadway as a producer and/or merchandiser for Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Beautiful the Carole King Musical, Beetlejuice, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Come From Away, Hadestown, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Prom, and Oklahoma!
Araca’s current TV and film clients include HBO, National Geographic, Fox, Warner Bros., AMC, TBS, and Cartoon Network. Araca’s music merchandising roster includes a range of contemporary and iconic music artists such as Led Zeppelin, P!NK, Shania Twain, Sugarland and Zayn.
Sony’s acquisition of The Araca Group is a thoughtful venture for artists who continually seek out merchandising opportunities to complement their music revenues, branding, and marketing. Also, the acquisition of The Araca Group’s music merchandise division is a measure to strengthen The Thread Shop’s artist roster and infrastructure and the competitive capabilities that are in the making.
Similarly, on 1st August 2019, Sony Music and Indian entertainment management company Kwan announced a strategic joint venture to launch a new-age pop label, Big Bang Music.
Kwan represents some of the top names in entertainment and music in India presently. The 50-50 joint venture seeks to leverage Sony Music’s expertise in the music business & global reach and KWAN’s leadership in artist management with talent, brands and promoters.
Gaurav Wadhwa will lead the label as Chief Executing Officer along with Vijay Subramaniam as the Chief Executing Officer and Co-Founder of Kwan.
Vijay Subramaniam expressed his expectations,
“We aim to give Non film music and artists a strong platform using the powerful infrastructure of Sony Music, KWAN’s integrated 360 degree agency network and Gaurav’s rich experience in the music content and marketing business”
Consequentially, Big Bang Music will develop a roster of artists to cater to the fast-growing pop culture market and serve the growing need from digital content platforms, brands and live experiences for new age celebrities and fans who are digital natives. Also, Big Bang will be an A&R centric, creative artist development and a marketing outfit.
In the league of acquisitions
Sony Music’s acquisition and collaborations shift our focus to the same trend that has been accepted by two most significant labels, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. In February 2019, Universal Music Group acquired Ingrooves, a global music distribution company that provides marketing and rights management services for independent labels and artists.
The acquisition of Ingrooves came after a longtime partnership UMG shared with the company. Thus, UMG is aware of the company and its technology and data insights. They said this inquisition would work in providing additional resources and expanding geographic reach.
Similarly, in September 2018, Warner Music Group announced its agreement to acquire EMP Merchandising Handelsgesellschaft mbH (EMP), one of Europe’s leading speciality music and entertainment merchandise e-tailers.
This deal was followed by Warner’s other acquisitions aimed at expanding WMG’s recorded music business. Sodatone, a premium A&R insight tool, UPROXX, an influential media brand for youth culture, Spinnin’ Records, an independent electronic music company, and Songkick, the live music and ticketing portal.
Given all the acquisitions, the competition amongst the biggest labels stands tight. While the expansions are aimed at building and enhancing the Rights, Distribution, A&R, Roster, and Merchandise, it makes us reflect on the reliance record labels have on each platform to distribute their product and contribute to their revenue.