Commentary

Stringer Ascending To CEO At Sony Music

Rob Stringer has been named CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, succeeding music-industry veteran Doug Morris, 77, who will become chairman of SME in April 2017. Stringer, 54, has been in the Sony Music family for his entire career and is the brother of Sir Howard Stringer, the retired CEO of Sony Corp. 

“The changing of the guard had been planned for some time due primarily to Mr. Morris’s age, people familiar with the matter said,” Hannah Karp reports for the Wall Street Journal. “Leading Sony Music at the corporate level represents a big shift for Mr. Stringer, who is beloved by many artists and known for his intuitive decision-making style, industry executives said.”

Stringer is No. 14 on the BillboardPower 100 listings in 2016; Morris is No. 4.

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“Under Stringer, Columbia, the leading label by market share, has seen Adele's latest album sell more than 10 million copies, as well as successful releases by Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Barbara Streisand, Bob Dylan, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, John Legend, One Direction and Tony Bennett. Stringer was also a key player in the release of David Bowie's final album, Blackstar,” reports Shirley Halperin for Billboard.

“Adele’s 25 was the best-selling album of 2015, while both Adele and Beyonce rank in the top five for 2016, according to Sony,” Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw points out.

“Not only is [Stringer] a tremendous developer of talent and nurturer of stars who has overseen numerous massive hits, but also he is an innovator who understands how to grow revenue and market share in the rapidly changing music business,” Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment and Stinger’s boss, says in a news release.

He will be succeeding a legend in the industry.

“Morris is exiting the CEO chair at a time of great change in the music business, with streaming taking over as the primary revenue generator thanks to huge growth in digital music platforms such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, to name a few,” Claire Atkinson points out in the New York Post. And, as of last week, Amazon.

“Morris … who started his career in the 1960s as a songwriter, has been one of the reigning dons of the record business for decades. He came to Sony after more than a decade at the helm of Universal; in the 1990s he also ran the Warner Music Group,” writes Ben Sisario for the New York Times

He is, in fact, the only executive who has held the title of CEO of all three major music groups, working with artists ranging from the Rolling Stones to the Chainsmokers, Sony points out.

“As one of the most powerful figures on the corporate side of the music business,” Sisario continues, “Morris has frequently been cast as a villain for the music industry’s slow response to the digital revolution of the 2000s.”

But Morris, who has been CEO at SME since 2011, “has expertly led Sony Music through some of the most transformative and challenging issues facing the music industry, while each year increasing the company's market share and profitability,” says Sony’s Lynton.

Indeed, things are looking up financially for the industry at the same time that decision-making and control is reverting to the creators. 

“Thanks to the growing popularity of online streaming, music revenue in the U.S. is poised to expand for a second straight year in 2016 — the first time that’s happened since CD sales peaked in 1998 and 1999,” observes Bloomberg’s Shaw. 

“The shift to streaming has challenged labels’ relationships with artists by giving musicians more control over where and how their music is played. Beyonce initially released her latest album exclusively on Tidal, the streaming service controlled by her husband Jay Z, while Adele withheld her album from such services at first.”

Music Times Ryan Middleton reports “there is no word on who will take throne at Columbia just yet, but that will likely be announced in the next few weeks.”

One does not need to have earned a Nobel prize to realize that, when it comes to the music industry in general, “the wheel's still in spin.”

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