Sony generated $7.5bn across recorded music and publishing last year, up 24% YoY

Adele's 30 was Sony Music's biggest-selling artist release (ex-Japan) in calendar Q4 2021

Sony Corp has today (February 2) revealed its calendar Q4 (fiscal Q3) results for 2021 – enabling MBW to calculate how the Japanese giant’s music rights operation performed across the course of last year.

Short conclusion? It performed very nicely.

In terms of recorded music revenues across the calendar year of 2021, MBW calculates that Sony Music generated USD $5.77 billion – up 25.2%, or $1.16 billion, on the equivalent figure from 2020.

In terms of music publishing revenues (generated by Sony Music Publishing and its sister company in Japan) in calendar 2021, Sony turned over $1.72 billion – up 19.7%, or by $284 million, on the equivalent figure from 2020.

(If Sony could grow its publishing business by a similar financial margin in 2022, we would be looking at a publishing operation with a ≈$2 billion turnover this calendar year.)

Combined, all of that means Sony’s global music rights operation (recorded music plus music publishing) brushed $7.5 billion in turnover during calendar 2021, with $7.49 billion in revenues posted.

This combined number was up 23.9% year-on-year – a jump of no less than $1.44 billion in annual turnover – according to MBW’s calculations, based on Sony’s quarterly results (originally posted in Yen).

Sony Corp logo

Of particular interest in Sony’s latest results, of course, is its streaming turnover.

Over the 12 months of calendar 2021, according to MBW’s calculations, Sony’s recorded music revenues from streaming hit $3.94 billion.

That was up by a third (33.0%) – or by $978 million – versus the equivalent figure from 2020.

Meanwhile, Sony’s music publishing revenues specifically attributed to streaming hit $850.9 million in calendar 2021.

That was up 36.9% or by $229 million, on the equivalent figure from 2020.

MBW is able to calculate all of these numbers (in constant-currency USD) thanks to Sony’s newly-revealed quarterly results for calendar Q4 (fiscal Q3).

In that quarter – the last of calendar 2021 – Sony’s global recorded music operation generated $1.62 billion, up 15.2% year-on-year.

Within this quarterly figure, Sony generated $1.05 billion from recorded music streaming royalties – a figure that was up by 19.0% year-on-year.

Sony has also revealed the names of the artist projects that generated the most recorded music revenue (i.e. ‘biggest selling’) globally in the calendar Q4 2021 quarter.

Excluding Japan, these artist projects were, in order of revenue:

  1. Adele, 30
  2. Doja Cat, Planet Her
  3. Lil Nas X, MONTERO
  4. The Kid LAROI, F*CK LOVE
  5. Harry Styles, Fine Line
  6. Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas
  7. Polo G, Hall of Fame
  8. Luke Combs, What You See Is What You Get
  9. Rod Wave, SoulFly
  10. Little Mix, Between Us

As a result of its impressive performance in calendar Q4 (fiscal Q3), Sony Corp has today revised its guidance upwards for both the revenue and profit expectations from its music division in the 2021 fiscal year (ending March 2022).

(Sony’s music division is officially comprised of both its recorded music and music publishing operations, plus ‘Visual Media & Platform’ which houses mobile video game releases.)

As a result – as you can see below – Sony now expects its fiscal-year music division turnover to hit 1.09 trillion Yen (approx $9.8bn), with FY operating income of 205 billion Yen (approx $1.8bn).

Sony Music Publishing, run by CEO & Chairman Jon Platt, is Sony’s US-headquartered music publishing operation.

Sony Music Entertainment, run by CEO Rob Stringer, is Sony’s US-headquartered recorded music operation.

And Sony Music Group – also run by Rob Stringer, as Chairman – is Sony’s US-headquartered umbrella group for both Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Music Publishing.

Note: All YoY percentage rises/falls published in this story are calculated at constant currency at the US dollar-converted level. MBW uses Sony’s own quarterly average currency rates for these calculations.

See below for the breakdown of Sony’s latest (fiscal) quarterly figures in Japanese Yen, as published by Sony Group Corp today.

For this analysis, MBW has calculated Sony’s financials from Japanese Yen into US dollars at the following prevailing exchange rates in each quarter, as confirmed by Sony Corp:

  • Calendar Q1 2020: 109.0 Yen per USD
  • Calendar Q2 2020: 107.6 Yen per USD
  • Calendar Q3 2020: 106.2 Yen per USD
  • Calendar Q4 2020: 104.5 Yen per USD
  • Calendar Q1 2021: 105.9 Yen per USD
  • Calendar Q2 2021: 109.5 Yen per USD
  • Calendar Q3 2021: 110.1 Yen per USD
  • Calendar Q4 2021: 113.7 Yen per USD

By applying these exchange figures to each applicable period, we effectively get a US-leaning constant currency picture of Sony Music’s performance.

This isn’t a perfect system; it risks overplaying Sony Music Entertainment’s global business slightly by converting a chunk of revenues from Sony Music Entertainment Japan (which would usually be straight-reported in Yen) into US dollars.

But it provides us with a cleaner reflection of the performance of New York-based Sony Music Entertainment outside of FX distortion, because the company had to convert its US currency into Yen in the first place for Sony Corp’s results. The same is true for US-based Sony Music Publishing.

MBW believes this currency exchange system is the yardstick used internally at Sony Music Group‘s HQ in New York.

Sony’s own description of its three music divisions is as follows:

  • Recorded Music – Streaming includes the distribution of digital recorded music by streaming; Recorded Music – Others includes the distribution of recorded music by physical media and digital download as well as revenue derived from artists’ live performances;
  • Music Publishing includes the management and licensing of the words and music of songs;
  • Visual Media and Platform includes the production and distribution of animation titles, including game applications based on the animation titles, and various service offerings for music and visual products.

Additional boring but important explainer: MBW’s year-on-year comparisons in this analysis are like-for-like (on a converted USD basis at prevailing quarterly rates) except for calendar Q1; Sony Corp altered the way it presents its recorded music revenue figures last year to reflect streaming revenue generated by partner labels on a gross basis. We have re-calculated Sony’s calendar 2020 recorded music numbers on this basis. However, Sony Corp has not published this gross-basis adjusted streaming number for calendar Q1 2020, meaning this figure is left unadjusted. The difference is not material. This does not affect Sony’s music publishing numbers.Music Business Worldwide