Retailers welcome initiative.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment's Australian has integrated its sales and digital departments, effective immediately. It's a first for the Australian marketplace, where the digital music business has escalated after the Oct. 25 launch last year of Apple Computers' iTunes Music Store.

Denis Handlin, chairman and CEO, said, "Our major accounts will benefit from a flexible and competitive sales force that manages physical and digital music products. Just as importantly, the sales force will benefit from the increased scope in their roles."

Handlin added that the initiative was not a cost-cutting exercise, but was intended to create a "dynamic division with plenty of tremendous opportunities."

Digital sales make up 6% of Sony BMG's Australian operations. Handlin expects that figure to double by the end of the year.

The new 30-strong division will fall under the responsibilities of GM, sales & digital, Gavin Parry. Formerly GM of digital services and IT, Parry continues to report to Handlin.

Chris May, previously director of retail marketing, is promoted to director of sales and reports to Parry.

He replaces GM of national sales, David Pritchard, who has exited the company.
"Putting the head of IT in charge of retail is a brilliant move," says Geoff Bonouvrie, Sydney-based chairman of the Australian Music Retail Assn. and founder of single-store Mall Music in Brookvale. "It allows retailers a direct line to the person making all the digital decisions as well as the retail ones," he says.

Bonouvrie predicts other labels will follow Sony BMG's lead. "This is the most exciting news I've heard in quite a while," he says.