Michael Jackson's Biggest Chart Thrills
Michael Jackson's Biggest Chart Thrills

Sony Corp's music division posted a revenue declined of 9.9% to $5.67 billion in the fiscal year ended March 31. At constant currency, which removes the impact of currency fluctuations, the decline was 5%.

Sony's music division includes Sony Music Entertainment, a U.S.-based operation with worldwide subsidiaries, as well as Sony Music Entertainment Japan and 50% of U.S.-based Sony/ATV Music Publishing and its worldwide subsidiaries.

The decline was even worse in final quarter of the fiscal year (the first quarter of calendar year 2011). Sony Music's fourth quarter revenue dropped 12.9% to $1.32 billion while its operating income was unchanged at $46 million.

One reason for Sony Music's decline in annual revenue was the death of Michael Jackson in 2009. In the U.S. alone, Jackson's catalog sold 8,285,000 albums in 2009, the year of his death, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2010, sales dropped to 2,118,000 units, 405,000 of which were the new "Michael" album released in December. That's a drop of 6,167,000 albums.

Given Jackson's global popularity, and taken into account additional revenue from track sales, ringtones, radio play and digital services, it's easy to see how Sony's most recent year would compare poorly to the previous year. Note that Sony's fiscal year ends March 31 and the sales figures given above are for calendar years. There is a timing difference but the impact of Jackson's death on Sony's fiscal years is clear.

Compounding the year-over-year problem was the "continued contraction of the physical music market," as Sony put it. However, Sony Music's operating income rose 6.6% to $469 million. The company attributed the improvement to "decreases in marketing, restructuring and overhead costs."

For the full fiscal year, Sony Corporation revenue grew 1.6% to $43.05 billion.