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Gatfield: Sony UK relied too much on X-Factor

By | Published on Tuesday 19 February 2013

Sony Music

While the shift to the digital world has proved challenging, the real challenge for record companies remains the same, says Sony Music UK boss Nick Gatfield, finding, nurturing and launching new talent.

And while Sony’s UK business has enjoyed some big new talent success stories in recent years, it had come to rely too much on the ‘X-Factor’ machine owned by its joint venture with Simon Cowell – Syco – and that’s something Gatfield has been endeavouring to overcome since joining the major in 2011.

We know all this because of an interesting interview with Sony Music’s UK boss on the CBI website posted late last week. Gatfield begins by noting: “The bedrock of this business is new music. As long as you’ve got credible new music coming through, there are always ways of finding the music-loving public, whether it’s online or through stores. The fundamentals are great talent”.

Talking about his joining Sony Music UK in 2011, initially as President Of Music and subsequently CEO, Gatfield adds: “My mandate from my boss was: ‘We’ve got to turn the UK back into a domestic repertoire powerhouse’. It had lost its way in terms of domestic A&R. We also needed to become a strong exporter of talent and fuel the Sony machine globally with British talent”.

And on the role of ‘X-Factor’ in Sony’s new talent equation: “Every one of our competitors would want the platform that ‘The X-Factor’ delivers. We have a phenomenal pipeline of talent coming through the TV formats and we’re incredibly lucky to have that. But I think we relied on it too much and took our eye off the ball. We got complacent”.

Gatfield believes that after a “year of restructuring and consolidation” he has now put in place the framework for a more holistic approach to new talent development, and while it’s too soon to say how big the pay back will be, he’s optimistic: “We have a whole range of new artists coming to market between now and March 2014. We have the most nominated artists in the critics’ end-of-year polls for breakthrough success, while Tom Odell won the BRITs Critics’ Choice award. You can’t take any of that to the bank yet, but experience tells me that a good number of our artists are on their way to significant sales”.

Read the full interview here.