Business

Sony Music Profit Surges as Streaming Drives Overall Revenue to Nearly $2.5B

Miley Cyrus
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for dick clark productions

Miley Cyrus performs at Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2021 broadcast on Dec. 31, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2021.

Sony's music operations and visual media/platform had an explosive fourth quarter with operating income growing to 40.62 billion yen ($383.6 million) on revenue of 263.37 billion yen ($2.49 billion). That represents a 37.8% increase (on a dollar basis) from the prior year's total of 30.34 billion yen ($278.3 million) and a 30.4% increase in revenue from nearly 208 billion yen ($1.91 billion).

Streaming led the charge with a 49.1% increase to 101.3 billion yen ($956.66 million) from nearly 70 billion yen ($641.7 million) in the prior year. Also, the company's visual media platform contributed 36.5% growth to 67.42 billion yen ($636.6 million) thanks to the Demon Slayer movie and increases from mobile video game.

However, the company received a $100 million boost in revenue due to a recategorization for accounting of some distributing contracts from a net basis to gross sales basis. Without that change in accounting, the company still produced a 25% increase in revenue, according to Billboard's calculations. At least two-thirds of that $100 million flowed to streaming revenue, which helped drive the channel’s 49% increase.

(Sony typically uses agency accounting for its Orchard operation, only recognizing its distribution fee —- not total sales —- as its revenue; and the bulk of that company's revenue is still treated that way in the company's financials.)

Breaking out its fourth quarter revenue, Sony's recorded music segment produced 152.75 billion yen ($1.44 billion) in revenue, a 34.3% increase from the prior year total of 117.05 billion yen ($1.07 billion); while Sony Music Publishing and Sony Japan’s publishing operation produced revenue of 43.3 billion yen ($408 million), up 11%from 40.07 billion yen ($367.6 million; and the visual media/platform tallied 67.42 billion yen ($636.6 million), or a 36.5% increase to 67.4 billion.

Without the latter unit, the segment's music operations — publishing and record labels — tallied nearly 196 billion yen ($1.85 billion), up 28.4% from 2019’s 115.1 billion yen ($1.44 billion).

In addition to streaming, breaking out recorded music by other formats:

  • Physical brought in 23.68 billion yen ($223.6 million) up 13.9% from the corresponding quarter prior year’s s total of 21.4 billion yen ($196.3 million);
  • Downloads rang up 8.5 billion yen ($80 million), as compared to the 2019’s fourth quarter prior when it had 8.6 billion yen ($79.2 million);
  • Other income streams pulled in 19.3 billion yen ($182.2 million) or a 16.3% increase over the 17.1 billion yen $156.7 million).

As a percentage of recorded music revenue that breaks out to 66.3% for streaming; 5.5% in downloads for total digital of 27.9%; 15.5%, physical; and 12.6% for other for 2020. That compares, respectively to 59.8% for streaming; 7.4% for downloads and total digital of 67.1%; 18.3% physical and 14.6% other.

Moving over to annual results, Sony's music operations, which includes Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Music Japan as well as the Visual Media/Platform, the segment produced operating income of 188.1 billion yen ($1.77 billion) on 927.3 billion yen ($8.74 billion). That represents a 35.4% increase (on a dollar basis) in operating income from the prior year's total of 142.35 billion yen ($1.31 billion) and a 13.3% increase from 2019's revenue of 838.6 billion yen ($7.71 billion).

As a result of that increase, Sony’s operating margin for the year improved by three percentages points to 20%, versus last year’s 17% of revenue.

The company said its big sellers during the year were Harry Styles' Fine Line, AC/DC 's POWER UP, Luke Combs' What You See Is What You Get and This One's For You, Dojo Cat's Hot Pink, Polo G's THE GOAT, Future's High Off Life, Travis Scott's ASTROWORLD, The Kid LAROI'S F*CK LOVE (Savage), and Jawsh 685's Jawsh 585 Releases.

Fourth quarter revenue received a further boost due to releases from the Foo Fighters' Medicine At Midnight, Miley Cyrus' Plastic Hearts, and 24KGoldin's El Dorado.

Meanwhile, Sony Music Japan's big titles included Kenshi Yonezu's STRAY SHEEP, SixTONES' 1ST, and LISA's Homora.

Breaking out revenue for the year by segment:

  • Recorded music totaled 516.3 billion yen ($4.87 billion, an increase of 13.2% from the prior year's total of 467.15 billion yen ($4.2 billion)
  • Publishing grew 2% to 156.9 billion yen ($1.48 billion) from 2019's total of 157.5 billion yen ($1.45 billion)
  • Visual media/platform totaled 254.1 billion yen ($2.4 billion), or a 21.7% increase over 214 billion yen ($1.97 billion)

As a percentage of revenue, that breaks out respectively to 55.7% recorded music, 16.9% publishing and 27.4% for visual media/platform.

Without the latter Visual Media/Platform segment, that means overall music revenue from record labels and music publishing rose to ¥673.1 billion yen ($6.45 billion), or 10.4% growth over the prior year's total of ¥624.6 billion yen ($5.75 billion). However, in addition to the $100 million in gain coming from the revenue recategorization for the year recorded in the fourth quarter and thus also in the annual total, during the year the company also recorded another 5.4 billion yen in a one-time gain in connection with the transfer of an ownership stake in an undisclosed overseas business. When those gains are deducted from overall revenue, music revenue for the year increased 7.85%, Billboard estimates.

Within recorded music:

  • Streaming grew 25.1% to 337.1 billion yen ($3.18 billion) from 276.04 billion yen ($2.54 billion) and now comprises 65.3% of that segment's revenue versus 59.1% last year
  • Downloads saw revenue drop 7.2% to 31.4 billion yen ($296 million) from 34.65 billion yen ($319 million), with its percentage of revenue now at 6.1%, down from 7.4% in 2019
  • That means total digital revenue is now 71.4% at 368.5 billion yen ($3.5 billion), versus the prior year when it was 310.7 billion  yen ($2.86 billion), or 66.5%
  • Physical increased by 12.1% to 97.75 billion yen ($921.26 million)  from the prior year's total of 89.34 billion yen ($821.9 million). As a percentage of revenue in 2020, it totaled 18.9% but that's down from 19.1% in the prior year
  • Other income streams came in at 50.03 billion yen ($471.5 million), a 23.6% drop from 67.12 billion yen ($617.5 million), due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the live industry and merchandising. As a percentage of revenue, other income streams comprised 9.7% down from 14.4% in 2019.

Looking ahead, Sony said it expects upcoming releases from BROCKHAMPTON, DJ Khaled, Doja Cat, French Montana, Giveon, Modest Mouse, Nicky Jam, Rag'n'Bone Man, and Travis Scott to drive revenue in its current fiscal year. Further, it forecasts revenue from its music operations and visual media/platform will grow to 990 billion yen in 2021.

(This story used an exchange rate of 106.1 yen to the dollar for the annual results for 2020 and 108.7 yen to the dollar for 2019's annual results. For the fourth quarter 2020 the exchange rates quoted are 105.9 yen to the dollar and 109 yen to the dollar for 2019.)