Joining Variety for its first-ever all-music edition of the “Strictly Business” podcast is Sony Music Group chairman Rob Stringer, who oversees the standalone labels Columbia, RCA, Epic, Arista Records and Sony Music Nashville as well as Sony Music Publishing and The Orchard and leads a staff of more than 5,000 employees around the world.
Stringer has spent his entire professional career in the Sony system, starting out as a marketing trainee in his native U.K., then moving up the ranks and to New York in 2006, where he went on to shape Sony’s recorded music business in the U.S.
Stringer has previously served as chief executive at Columbia Records, helping bring to the world a slew of successful new artists, including Adele, Calvin Harris, Harry Styles, Haim, J.Cole, The Chainsmokers and Tyler the Creator. He’s also looked after such iconic acts as Beyonce, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, AC/DC, Celine Dion, Daft Punk, Sade and David Bowie, whose final album, Blackstar, the label released in 2016.
Since ascending to the top music position for the Tokyo-headquartered company in 2019, he’s met more than his share of challenges: from making the right hires to see the company’s vision through, to banking on talent and not just “hits,” to segueing to a subscription driven business, to getting through a global pandemic and responding to the call for social justice.
Like so many in the world, Stringer has spent most of 2020 uncharacteristically still, using what would have been weeks of traveling to hone in on time at home (“Call My Agent,” “Ted Lasso” and “It’s a Sin” are among his binge-watches during quarantine) and the business at hand.
We talk about changes he’s seen during his four decades in the label system, the dance between tech and art, the globalization of music and the upcoming Grammy Awards.
Listen to the episode below:
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud.