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The future of labels, the future of EMI Publishing, the future of the streaming market: Sony chiefs chatter

By | Published on Thursday 8 December 2011

Sony Corp

So, Sony types have been very mouthy this week, haven’t they? First up, Rob Wiesenthal, CFO of Sony Corp Of America, was speaking at a UBS Media Conference in New York. He covered a wide range of topics, but on music predicted that streaming services, such as Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG and Sony’s rather lacklustre Entertainment Network, would truly take off once subscriptions were more routinely bundled into mobile phone fees.

He then postured that the major record companies of the future would operate much more like the major music publishers of today, a viewpoint that supports the now abandoned strategy of outgoing EMI boss Roger Faxon to more closely integrate his company’s label and publishing businesses. Of course that’s something Sony would struggle to achieve because while it owns the Sony record company outright, the conglom’s existing and new publishing concerns, Sony/ATV and EMI Music Publishing respectively, are joint ventures, thus preventing a merger of all of the Corp’s music assets.

Meanwhile, when asked about Sony’s decision to install the Android operating system on some of its portable devices, rather than a proprietary platform, Wiesenthal admitted his company was now much more willing to utilise other firms’ software on its hardware, and had accepted the benefits of using open standards.

Elsewhere in Sony exec interview land, the chief of the conglom’s aforementioned Sony/ATV music publishing business, Marty Bandier, has spoken to Music Week about his company’s acquisition of EMI Music Publishing. As expected, the EMI pubbery will remain autonomous from Sony/ATV, it owning only 38% of the new purchase. That means the company will retain, for the time being at least, the EMI name.

Bandier is clearly pleased to have won the fight to acquire EMI, the publishing business he helped grow prior to jumping ship to Sony, though he was cautious when asked how successful the new Sony/ATV offshoot would be, saying: “I’ll let you know in about two years! [This acquisition] could be ranked as the greatest accomplishment or it could be the worst”.

Finally in Sony exec quotesville, more from Tim Schaaff, the boss of that aforementioned lacklustre on-demand content platform, the Sony Entertainment Network, who was asked about his buzzy competitor Spotify at a London press briefing earlier this week. According to Electricpig, Schaaff said he didn’t believe Spotify – market leader in much of Europe, and now one of the highest profile streaming platforms in the US – would come to dominate the streaming content sector in the way iTunes dominates a la carte downloads, insisting all was still to play for in the streaming space.

Said Schaaff: “It’s certainly not in the labels’ interest to have one company dominate everything. That’s not likely to happen, that doesn’t happen in general. Spotify has been one of the first companies to be able to really make a statement about subscription services that has made sense to the consumer, but it’s early days and we used to think that MySpace was going to dominate everything in social networking and they’re gone. Things change very fast in this environment, and fashion changes quickly in this environment, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. We really are at the early stages here, and the question is how will the companies hold up over the long run”.

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