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Eyeing global appeal of local music

By Gao Yuan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-23 09:03

1955  Associated Television (ATV) is established by Lew Grade. 1957 ATV acquires Pye Records as a wholly owned subsidiary.

1968  ATV Music and Lew Grade acquire the rights to the Lennon McCartney song catalogue, Northern Songs.

1982  ATV Music Publishing and Pye Records are put up for sale. They are bought by Robert Holmes Court.

1985  ATV Music Publishing and its assets, Pye Records and Northern Songs, are again put up for sale. Singer Michael Jackson acquires them for $47.5 million.

1989  Sony-owned CBS Records (now Sony Music) buys Tree International Publishing, Sony's first music publishing venture outside Japan.

1995  US pop singer Michael Jackson merges ATV Music Publishing with Sony. He earns $90 million from the venture.

May 2001  Jackson declares that The Beatles' songs "will never be for sale".

July 2002  Sony/ATV Music Publishing buys country music publisher Acuff-Rose for $157 million. The venture includes publishing rights to 55,000 songs.

2007  Sony/ATV Music Publishing acquires the Leiber and Stoller catalog, which includes the Elvis Presley hits Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock, and Famous Music, a music publishing business with a catalogue of more than 125,000 songs.

2012  Sony/ATV leads a consortium that acquires EMI Music Publishing, the world's largest catalogue with more than 1.3 million rights to songs, making Sony/ATV the world's largest music publishing corporation.

"If you start to let your own flavor determine the business, you may let the right ones go. I have to stand back and be objective and say 'I don't really like this but I think it's going to sell'."

Seeing a favorite artist cooperate with others maybe bad, but Henderson and his team has to face a more intense fight globally: To protect Sony/ATV's music copyrights.

"China is not the only country with piracy problems but they are quite big and it is something that the nation needs to resolve," he said.

Some Internet companies, such as Baidu Inc, offer free music and literature to the public but the heavily debated copyright issues remain unresolved.

Gao Xiaosong, a musician and critic, believes China's music industry is working on a payment mechanism that may be released in July. 

A number of industry insiders believe it may be a perfect opportunity for China's music industry to make breakthroughs in the intellectual property sector because the old record business system is dying and the digital music industry is still in its infancy.

A recent study from industry regulator the China Audio-Video Association showed the country had a 400 million online music audience in 2012, with all the copyrights possibly worth more than 40 billion yuan. But publishers could only collect around 800 million yuan from the market, a small percentage of the total.

Henderson said Sony/ATV will work with a local collecting society as well as online music platforms to create a better publishing environment in the country.

"I am a fan of attracting people into the market first rather than initially hitting them with a stick. When you enter a new market, the best approach is to become inclusive rather than exclusive," he added.

Looking forward, Henderson is optimistic about the upcoming digital era and confident about how the new way of enjoying music will benefit publishing companies.

"For years we have seen 'physical' music declining and digital increasing but not increasing fast enough to overcome the 'physical' decline. But now the digital era is unstoppable," he said, adding it took the industry a while to face the fact that the era of "physical" music has gone, especially for the "CD generation".

"I think everybody accepts that so long as you consume music you pay for it. It's just a different world and a different way of doing business," said Henderson.

Moreover, the digital world is set to give publishers more of a say in a record company-dominated ecosystem.

"The digital era has given the publishers autonomy to negotiate deals on their own. The flexibility of different services, such as online streaming, will increase the trend," he said.


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