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THE STRINGER
ERA BEGINS

Rob Stringer—who takes the keys to the Sony Music kingdom this week after six years as head of Columbia —shuns hyperbole, abhors pomposity and values subtlety, preferring to let the music speak for itself.

And we’re here to say he’s the greatest and most giving executive in the history of—just kidding, Rob. We’ll stick to the facts.

Stringer’s move to the CEO post marks an orderly transition of power following the hugely successful reign of his mentor, Doug Morris. It’s also a measure of his performance as an executive both attuned to evolving trends and respectful of tradition.

As head of Columbia, the jewel in Sony’s crown, Stringer has cultivated such megastars as Adele and Beyoncé; global phenoms such as One Direction; chart-rocking innovators including The Chainsmokers and Calvin Harris; and creative, commercial breakouts like Pharrell, Daft Punk, John Legend and Hozier.

In the meantime, he’s been a steadfast and thoughtful custodian of such Columbia icons as Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, AC/DC and the late David Bowie. An avid A&R man throughout his reign, he applied the full-court press to close the highly competititve Harry Styles deal in the summer of 2016.

In other words, he maintained Columbia’s sterling reputation and still managed to make the place cool.

“If you become the object of his enthusiasm,” proclaimed Bowie during the 2014 conferral of U.K.’s prestigious Strat Award on Stringer, “an artist will find a genuine long-term support that is sadly missing in the recording industry.”

Stringer ended his last full year as Columbia chief with the #1 label marketshare, at 11.5.

His finale in the post was also marked by Grammy glory; Columbia earned 32 nods overall, more topline noms than any other label (six) and a field-leading 17 wins overall; Adele took Album, Song and Record, among other categories, 
while Bey and Bowie were multiple trophy winners on Music’s Biggest Night. All in all, Columbia’s Grammy gold cemented Stringer’s legacy and his achievements, both in attracting major talent and guiding stalwarts of the roster.

"If you become the object of his enthusiasm, an artist will find a genuine long-term support that is sadly missing in the recording industry."—David Bowie

The native of Aylesbury, England, has said that he’s wanted to be in music since age seven and was permanently set on his path by a 1976 Clash show. He worked in a local rock club, Aylesbury Friars, as a youth and attended London’s Goldsmith’s College, where he booked the very first gigs in the city by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and Simply Red. He had the opportunity to visit the U.S. at length in the early ’80s, thanks to big brother Howard (who would serve as Sony Corporation chief decades later) and soaked up the culture greedily.

Stringer entered the music business at CBS in ’85, during the Walter Yetnikoff era.There he was trained in marketing and A&R and signed the Manic Street Preachers, and worked with Paul Young, Alison Moyet, Deacon Blue and Bros.

In ’92, then aged 29, Stringer was promoted, during the Tommy Mottola era, to run Epic, bringing the Preachers with him; his achievements included persuading George Michael to return to the label after his very public falling-out with the company.

Stringer earned the Sony Music U.K. chairmanship in 2001. After the Sony-BMG merger, during the Andy Lack era, he became U.K. Chairman of the conjoined companies. He also helped move the company into TV and other media and keep pace with evolving digital technology. As part of the TV push, he worked closely with Simon Cowell, whose A&R chops would figure largely in his kingdom henceforth.

In 2005, he was tapped as Chairman of the Sony Music Label Group by Rolf Schmidt-Holtz. Following the ascent of Doug Morris to the top Sony Music post in 2011, he was made Head of Columbia (sharing the Chairman title with Steve Barnett for a brief period) .

Stringer was named UJA Music Visionary of the Year in 2013, despite not being Jewish; fortunately, Doug Morris has taught him enough Yiddish to kibitz admirably. 

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