The growth of streaming has brushed the dust off a historically overlooked sector in music: Publishing companies are no longer looked at as the awkward stepchildren of the industry. The fight for songwriters’ fair compensation and the now-undeniable popularity of catalog sales have put all eyes on publishers. So, it was inevitable that Sony Music Group would take a closer look at its publishing arm and give the sector a facelift that corresponds with the times.
On Wednesday, the company representing artists like Cardi B, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and Ed Sheeran announced that Sony/ATV had been renamed to Sony Music Publishing, and its mission had been “revitalized.” There’s also a new logo, which was designed to look like “an abstraction of sound waves — with resonance and vibrations that express infinitely expanding opportunities for songwriters” — according to a press release.
This isn’t the first appearance of the Sony Music Publishing name. It only changed to Sony/ATV in 1995, when Michael Jackson brought over ATV Music in a joint venture deal. (Jackson bought ATV Music in 1985, giving him reign over Northern Songs, which controlled all of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Beatles publishing.) Sony acquired the Michael Jackson estate’s 50 percent share of Sony/ATV in 2016, but the name didn’t immediately reflect that change. Now, a little more than 25 years after the absorption of ATV, it does.
“Since its inception, Sony Music Publishing has supported the careers of songwriters and continues to defend their rights,” Chairman/CEO Jon Platt said in a statement. “Returning to the Sony Music Publishing name reconnects us to our legacy and further unifies our mission and culture with the Sony Corporation. Our new brand embodies a modern vision to be an authentic reflection of the music and songwriters we represent.”
Sony Music Group Chairman Rob Stringer added that “Jon and the company are charting a new course for the business and an exciting path forward for its songwriters and its people.” When Rolling Stone asked a Sony representative for specifics surrounding any possible new initiatives, hires, and/or department expansions, the rep would only say that the company is “continuing to grow into emerging markets and expand services for its songwriters — especially as they relate to royalties and how they are paid.”
This language echoes decisions Platt made in the months immediately following his move from Warner/Chappell to Sony/ATV in 2019. That’s when the company claimed to significantly upgrade its payment systems, launching new tools like the “Cash Out” service, which allowed writers to withdraw royalties before they were due. Sony also introduced real-time foreign royalty payments, which expedite earnings from overseas to be paid out in the same period that they are collected. (Traditionally, there is a 9-12 month lag for songwriters to receive these international earnings.)
In the last month, Sony’s publishing arm created a new “catalogue development” role, bringing former Warner Records executive Liz Lewis on board as a senior vice president in the space, as well as hiring a new international vice president of human resources, Sonia Grant-Yendell. It’s likely that announcements of these natures — and more — will only continue to roll in.