Thank you for talking about your concerns re: Sony/Columbia and Rob Stringer. I thought I was the only one who felt sick to my stomach at the thought of the man who has been friends with Simon for years, and was head of the US label that helped to closet H & L, being the one to sign H. I don't know why people are excited, because the power dynamics are really messed up now, and there's no guarantee that the stunts are going to stop for L anytime soon. Trying to have hope, but it's hard. :(
It’s very hard, and you’re perfectly welcome, anon.
I thought I had posted about Rob Stringer in the fall, but all I can find is some articles I uploaded, so I’ll revisit now. Stringer has spent his career at Sony, he’s been running labels there since the early 90s, and his brother was a main exec and CEO of Sony Corp (not music) for quite some time. Stringer has headed Columbia since 2008, and he’s done extensive business with Simon Cowell in that capacity. Indeed, Simon was the first quote in the Billboard article announcing Stringer’s appointment as head of Sony this October. Their working relationship has been extensive, as far as I can tell. He has credited his work with Simon on XFactor acts as his gateway to success for getting Glee to work, which was hugely responsible for his success turning Columbia around. [Adele as well, and he’s partly responsible for a lot of a resurgent trend of U.K. artists’ US success.] He has called Simon the “best A&R guy he knows” in multiple interviews.
One Direction signed to Columbia in 2012 as they were breaking the American market; the closet clamped down during this time.
Sony purchased controlling shares in Syco in July of 2015 – paying £85 million total for it, and absorbing the £70 million debt it had accrued. While making £45 million from it personallyis somewhat pathetic for Simon, that’s a far better fate than being jettisoned from Sony and declaring the company bankrupt within five years. The buyout was, it would appear, the best possible outcome for Simon given the failures of his television series, losing One Direction, and being unable to produce a suitably earning substitute.
Rob Stringer was announced the new head of Sony mid-October 2016.
I say all this to suggest that thinking of a ‘fresh start’ for Rob Stringer or Harry is not logically sound. Rob Stringer has been involved in their business since 2012 – but even say for argument’s sake that perhaps he didn’t determine their marketing. But Rob Stringer has been calling the shots at Sony since this fall (and potentially had input before that official announcement). And we know Sony now holds the Syco strings and has since July 2015, a date we are all very aware of – so Rob Stringer stepping into the office in the last six months has certainly had power to ameliorate the situation, and he has not done so.
Harry has been constructed as the big fish, the Justin Timberlake, almost since the beginning. It seems Sony’s going to be damned if they don’t get what they’ve always angled for, by hook or by crook. Given what we have seen, they’ve been successful at backing Harry into a corner, as well as Louis, with profound effects for Liam and Niall as well.
Columbia and Sony are sure to promote Harry’s music thoroughly, because it could make them a great deal of money. But that is the equation. It is very much in their best interests not to help Niall, Louis, and Liam or One Direction, as that would distract dollars and time from Harry’s solo work, which will make them a fortune. It is quite evident by now that Sony has had the power to step in but have not, because such an extreme power imbalance in negotiating is much more expedient for their bottom line. They’ve been monstrous and it’s gotten them Harry’s contract, which is what they wanted.
Hope is not any easy thing in such a situation. I think patience will continue to be the watchword.