HITS Daily Double


Sony Music U.K. started a new era this year, shifting its base east from London’s High Street Kensington to the now-buzzing creative hub of Kings Cross and opening a new recording studio. Label CEO and Chairman Jason Iley describes the move as “a huge highlight” after four years of planning.

“It’s taken an extraordinary amount of work, but the timing couldn’t have been better,” he says. “It’s given us the opportunity for a complete creative reboot and our staff and artists love it. Being based in Kings Cross couldn’t be better—the heart of art, culture and tech.”

Iley considers the reopening of the live sector after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions another recent boon. Sony artists had an impressive run of shows over the summer, including Harry Styles at Wembley, Adele at Hyde Park and Bring Me the Horizon’s festival headlining slot at Reading and Leeds. Acts like Joy Crookes, Travis Scott, Cat Burns and George Ezra have also been on the road. “Plus,” Iley adds, “Wireless—my kids’ choice—and not least the long-awaited return of Glastonbury, which was unforgettable.”

U.K. #1 albums for Sony this year have come from Rex Orange County, Arcade Fire, Styles, Ezra, Beyoncé, Kasabian, Steps and Robbie Williams; acts delivering #1 singles include Adele and Styles, whose “As It Was” spent 10 weeks at the top.

Wins aside, there could be a tough winter ahead; after dealing with the ramifications of Brexit and a global pandemic, the U.K. is facing a cost-of-living crisis thanks to rising bills, which will affect venues and offices country-wide. Iley nonetheless believes Sony’s new facilities will offer a place of respite. “One thing we know from previous downturns is that music remains an essential comfort—uniting us in good times and bad,” he points out. “So we’re dealing with challenges by staying resolutely focused on the job at hand: finding and funding the best artists in Britain and sharing their music with as wide an audience as possible.”

Despite no action being taken by the aforementioned CMA regarding competition in the U.K. streaming market, conversation around the investigation, says Iley, was for the best: “It’s ultimately been good for the industry; the debate has raised some issues that needed to be addressed and has therefore brought the industry closer together. We share common goals: to look after our artists and see them succeed.”

Iley says the industry’s emphasis henceforth should be on “supporting music’s export potential, removing costly visas for touring and ensuring the industry is front and center of the creative industries so the U.K. remains a world-beating market for music.”

Equally important, he says, is representation and staff support: “While we’re signing diverse acts, we also need to continue hiring a broad range of executives and offer programs to attract and retain talent. Last year we hired our first director of artist & employee wellbeing—Elton Jackson—who’s already had a huge impact. This role builds on our global commitment to artists through the Artists Forward initiative, which prioritizes transparency and support for our music creators in all aspects of their development, and we will persist in looking at all aspects of how we can best support people.”

While Iley acknowledges the issue of increasing competition in a global market, he remains bullish about Sony’s ability to rise above the fray, remarking, “We can’t ignore the fact that because we’re a mature market, U.K. growth is slower than some developing markets, and as global repertoire grows, it can be harder to cut through. In this global, democratic music landscape, we see everything from new tracks that can pop on TikTok overnight to old tracks that gain a new lease on life with new audiences, and equally, artist-development plans that can take a lot longer due to the strength of competition.” The Sony Music U.K. topper’s answer to this is patience and “continuing to invest heavily in emerging British talent and work across Sony Music to give our acts the best chance of global success.”

Heading into next year and beyond, Iley cites the U.K. arm of the Sony Music Global Social Justice Fund as a project he’s particularly excited about; the label has spent £1.5m funding 18 grantees and is broadening access to music education, community engagement and criminal-justice reform. “It’s been a real team effort, delivered at a time of global crises and social upheaval, that’s brought existing inequities into stark relief,” he says.

Sony Music U.K. Acts to Watch: Russ Millions, Jae 5, Katie Gregson-MacLeod