Sony Music Entertainment has named Vanessa Picken to the role of chair and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment Australia and New Zealand. Reporting to Sony Music Group Chairman Rob Stringer, she will begin her new role in September.
Based in Sydney, Picken will oversee all operations, artist signings, marketing, and business partnerships for the company, according to the announcement. She also will forge new partnerships for artists with other Sony companies and identify opportunities for artists across multiple entertainment channels such as music, TV, film, podcasting, gaming and more.
Most recently, Picken served as managing director of the independent music company [PIAS] in Los Angeles, overseeing the growth and restructure of the company’s label group and distribution business. During her tenure at [PIAS], Picken’s focus was on repertoire and campaign development, and played a key role in the success of triple BRIT award-winning artist Arlo Parks as well Day Wave, Röyskopp, Lykke Li, Mykki Blanco and Geese, among others.
The move follows the sudden June 2021 ouster of longtime chairman-CEO Denis Handlin amid widespread staff complaints about a “nightmarish and toxic” alcohol-fueled, male-dominated culture at the company. Handlin, who started at the company in 1970 and rose to chairman-CEO in 2004, was considered the most powerful man in the Australian music industry, having overseen the careers of Australian musical artists including Silverchair, the Veronicas and others.
“After a careful and thorough recruitment process, we are delighted to have Vanessa join our company in such a key role,” said Rob Stringer, Chairman, Sony Music Group. “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. We believe Vanessa will be a trailblazing executive leading Sony Music Australia to an exciting future.”
“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,” added Picken. “Sony Music has a renowned reputation for empowering its artists and creators, breaking down traditional barriers to put them at the center of everything it does. We will reaffirm our commitment to the discovery and development of new and emerging talent across both countries, as well as expanding the commercial and creative opportunities for our roster of artists locally and internationally.”
Picken is also the founder of digital agency and label services company, Comes With Fries. The agency has led creative, marketing and promotion campaigns for many artists, labels and organizations including Powderfinger, Placebo, Support Act, Nettwerk Music Group, Red Bull Records, So Recordings, Jess Mauboy, Speedy Wunderground and more.
Picken started her career in the music industry in 2006 at EMI Music Australia, where she spent five years working with the label’s local and international artists including contributing to the success of artists like Robbie Williams. She is also the co-curator of Fastforward Sydney, a music technology conference for industry leaders.
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