Sony Music Entertainment is an American and Australian music corporation. It is one of the biggest music corporations in the world, second only to Universal Music Group.
Before Sony Music Entertainment was known as such, a long development history preceded it. In 1929, American Record Company was founded. In 1938, ARC was acquired by Columbia Records (known then as Columbia Broadcasting Systems). In 1953, Columbia founded Epic Records. In 1968, CBS and Sony formed CBS/Sony Records. Sony was one of the developers behind the compact disc (CD), and the joint collaboration between both companies allowed CBS to begin supplying CDs to Americans in 1983. In November 1987, SCA acquired CBS Records for $2 billion. CBS Inc. retained the rights to the CBS name for music recordings but allowed Sony to use the CBS name. In 1990, CBS Records renamed the CBS Masterworks classical music label to Sony Classical Records.
In January 1991, Sony renamed as Sony Music Entertainment (SME). Sony also reintroduced the Columbia label worldwide, which it previously held in the United States and Canada only. Japan is the only country where Sony does not have rights to the Columbia name. In 1995, Sony and Michael Jackson formed a joint venture which merged Sony's music publishing operations with Jackson's ATV Music to form Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
Relationship with One Direction
One Direction are Sony distributed artists due to their record deal with Simon Cowell's Syco Music, which is 50% owned by Sony.
Little is officially known about One Direction's working relationship with Sony but speculation has always been rife that the two entities do not get along. As of 2016, Zayn, Harry and Liam have all made direct transitional business moves away from Sony, though it is unknown if all three are entirely separate from the company as yet. Zayn exited Syco Music in July 2015, though his move to RCA Records was orchestrated by Simon Cowell. Sony is RCA Records parent company. When Zayn's debut single "Pillowtalk" was released on iTunes, track information revealed his music was still owned by Syco, but was being licensed to RCA Records, indicating Zayn's label move was not, in fact, a move away from Cowell's label or management the way most assumed it would be. On July 21 2016, Liam transitioned to Capitol Records as a solo artist, but remains a member of One Direction. Cowell spoke unfavourably of the move in subsequent press interviews, strongly implying he felt Liam was "disloyal" for leaving. Liam also transitioned to new public relations and management teams, possibly indicating a full shift away from Sony, aside from remaining a member of One Direction. On February 1 2016, Harry transitioned to Jeff Azoff's Full Stop management but does not appear to have signed with any other record label as yet. Rumors abound he has moved to Columbia Records but, as One Direction are already signed with Columbia as a band, this, like Zayn's move, would not be a particularly significant venture if confirmed.
In April 2015, leaked emails from Sony representatives and employees were revealed, including some about One Direction. The emails included details of the image marketing plan for One Direction - which featured tables describing each member. Many fans considered Zayn's image plan to be offensive and racist, as it featured negative describing words such as "player" and "poser", while the other member's cards all featured significantly positive descriptors. Harry's plan also featured the ableist descriptor "adorably slow". Fans also noted the inclusion of Louis's girlfriend at the time (Eleanor Calder), as a way to market him as "unavailable", many believed this may be evidence of an enforced closeting of Louis. While most boy bands are marketed as being romantically available to their fanbase, in One Direction's case, only Harry appeared to be specifically marketed this way.
Other emails also showed Sony's concern with Louis tweeting about Captain America, which they felt was "helping the competition". An employee assumes the entire One Direction fanbase is female then explains their plans to leverage fan attention back onto Sony distributed 1D concert film This Is Us, by tweeting from the film's official account. Another email from producer Dr. Luke revealed he wanted Harry to feature in the music video for girl band GRL's song Ugly Heart, but was turned down by One Direction's management because they "didn't want to divide the band".