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Vanessa Picken Named Chair & CEO of Sony Music Australia/New Zealand

Picken, who most recently served as managing director at [PIAS], fills the void left by Denis Handlin after he departed in June 2021 following reports of misconduct.

Vanessa Picken has been named chair and CEO of Sony Music Australia and New Zealand, the company announced Tuesday (June 14). Picken will start in the role in September, reporting to Sony Music Group chairman Rob Stringer.

In her new role, Picken will oversee all operations, artist signings, marketing and business partnerships out of the company’s Sydney office. She will also be responsible for striking new partnerships for artists with other Sony companies and identifying opportunities for artists across various entertainment mediums including music, TV, film, podcasting and gaming.

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Picken arrives at SME Australia and New Zealand from [PIAS] in Los Angeles, where she held the role of managing director and led the growth and restructure of the company’s label group and distribution business. During her time in the role, Picken played a key role in repertoire and campaign development for artists including Arlo Parks, Day Wave, Röyskopp, Lykke Li, Mykki Blanco and Geese. Prior to being elevated to managing director, she ran digital strategy at [PIAS] across America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

In addition to her roles at [PIAS], Picken founded digital agency and label services company Comes With Fries, which has provided creative, digital marketing and media services to indie artists, managers, labels, organizations and brands including Powderfinger, Placebo, Support Act, Nettwerk Music Group, Red Bull Records, So Recordings, Jess Mauboy, Strange Talk, The Chats, Confidence Man and Speedy Wunderground. Picken is also the co-curator of Fastforward Sydney, a music technology conference for industry leaders.

Picken kicked off her music industry career in 2006 with a five-year stint at EMI Music Australia, where she worked with the label’s local and international artists.

The new hire comes roughly a year after Pickens’ predecessor in the chair and CEO role, Denis Handlin, stepped down from his post after nearly 40 years of leadership following a bombshell report in The Sydney Morning Herald that detailed allegations of discrimination, bullying and harassment at Sony Music Australia under his leadership. In April that year, SME Australia terminated veteran executive Tony Glover – then serving as the company’s vp of commercial music – after an investigation found that he had engaged in “inappropriate behavior” with staffers.

Handlin’s departure was announced by Stringer, who said at the time, “It is time for a change in leadership. And I will be making further announcements in terms of the new direction of our business in Australia and New Zealand in due course.” It was later reported that Sony Music had hired an Australia-based external counsel to handle ongoing investigations into the company’s workplace culture.

In a statement on Picken’s hire, Stringer noted that the company brought her aboard “after a careful and thorough recruitment process. Her impressive background covers so many areas of the modern music business in Australia and New Zealand and her recent leadership experience in the United States adds a global understanding to those existing skills.”

Added Picken, “I’m delighted to be coming home to join Sony Music Australia and New Zealand to take the company into a transformative next chapter. Our strategies will focus on music, allyship, and innovation, with a global mindset.”