Music

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Explosive Allegations Made Against Sony Music

Some of Australian music's most powerful figures have been stood down from their roles amid investigations into the company.

sony music australia photo

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A major shake-up has occurred at Sony Music Australia this week, with a number of high-profile executives ousted from their positions as an investigation into the company’s workplace culture continues.

On Monday, Denis Handlin, the company’s chief executive and one of the most powerful figures in the Australian music industry, was stood down “effective immediately”. Shortly afterwards, Handlin’s son Pat — another important figure at the company — was placed on indefinite leave.

Handlin’s removal occurred shortly before an explosive report from The Guardian was published, which alleged that the company was run as a “boy’s club”.

The article, published on Monday, June 21, and written with the assistance of over 20 former members of the organisation, details “allegations of sexual harassment at work events, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and the unfair treatment of women in the workplace”.

Inside Sony Australia

The Guardian article, written by Kelly Burke, alleges that the culture at the business was so toxic that the workplace was “run on fear”. Five employees were left so depleted by their time at the business that they sought “professional treatment for their mental health”.

Among the incidents detailed in the article include numerous allegations of sexual assault — one former employee said that she was told by a member of management that she would have her performance appraised “on her physique”. Another employee claims that she was repeatedly groped by one of her colleagues.

Additionally, many members of the female members of the staff were singled out for their physical appearance, invited to high profile events based on their looks. These events, including one on a yacht, made female employees feel vulnerable — one former staff member claimed to have stayed clear of alcohol in order to “have [her]wits about [her]”.

The company was also allegedly notorious for its alcohol-based work culture. Employees were expected to drink regularly when Handlin was present, and often felt that their careers were in jeopardy if they did not drink shots after the signing of a new artist.

“It didn’t matter that you still had to be in the office at 8.30 the next morning,” one ex-employee told The Guardian. “Your boss is ordering shots, and you know that if you leave, the next day you could be called in and hauled over the coals for it.”

The Fallout Of The Report

On Monday morning, Handlin, who has been with the company for over 50 years, was removed from his position at Sony, and subsequently from his role as chairman of the ARIA board.

“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,” read an email explaining the departure, sent by the global head of Sony Music, Rob Stringer, and viewed by several outlets.

Handlin wrote in a note to staff: “I wanted to write to you all to say what an honour it has been to have spent over 50 years of my life at building and supporting Sony Music in Australia and New Zealand…After 51 years I agreed with Rob Stringer that it’s time for a change.”

After the publishing of the report, a further shake-up to the organisational structure occurred: the Sydney Morning Herald’s Nathanael Cooper revealed on Tuesday that Handlin’s son Pat , Sony’s vice president of A&R, had been placed on indefinite leave, and the company’s head of human resources, Mark Stebnicki, had been stood down.

These changes to the structure of the organisation follow the dismissal of music executive Tony Glover, who was stood down in April of this year. Glover had been accused of inappropriate behaviour during his time at the label — allegations he denies.

“Upon receiving complaints of alleged inappropriate behaviour, a Senior Counsel was immediately engaged to independently investigate the allegations. Following completion of the investigation, the company acted on the findings. Sony Music Australia can confirm that Tony Glover has been dismissed with immediate effect,” a Sony spokesperson told The Music Network at the time.

Additionally, Cooper has today reported that a number of former Sony employees are considering a class-action lawsuit against the label.

As noted by multiple publications, at this stage, no plans have been announced to replace either of the Handlins, or Stebnicki.

Music Junkee does not suggest any serious allegations have been specifically made towards the individuals.