Jason Iley: Robbie Williams deal was 10 years in the making

Jason Iley: Robbie Williams deal was 10 years in the making

Robbie Williams’ new record deal with Sony Music – revealed by Music Week on Sunday night – has been the week’s big talking point. Williams is already working on a new album for Columbia Records, due out in Q4 this year. So Music Week sat down with Sony Music UK chairman/CEO Jason Iley, who negotiated the deal, to talk through how it happened – and what it will mean for both parties…

Had you always wanted to work with Robbie?

It’s been a 10-year courtship! And I’m not joking, actually. It started when EMI did the mega deal [in 2002]. It was public knowledge about what the deal was and it was public knowledge about how many albums they had. Once a year I’d go and have a lunch with management and we were on countdown from there onwards.  

What made Robbie want to sign to Sony?

When I came back from Roc Nation [in 2014], one of the first people I had lunch with was Tim [Clark] and David [Enthoven, Robbie’s management team at IE: Music]. At that point, I said look, we’ll keep in touch and we’ll have a conversation. So we’d meet every six months and, fortunately enough, it came to the point where they said, Look, get Robbie in to meet the team, which we did. So when I say it was a 10-year courtship, it really was a 10-year courtship!

And why did Robbie choose Columbia for his UK label?

Tim and David have a history of working with [Columbia’s co-president] Mark Terry, and Robbie looked at the roster and [decided] it was a label he wanted to be associated with. 

It’s a big statement of intent signing an artist like Robbie Williams. What makes it such a great deal for Sony?

We’re just delighted to be in the Robbie Williams business. He’s a great artist, one of the biggest artists the UK’s ever had. I’m really, really pleased we’re working with him, I love IE, they’re incredibly forward thinking, they’re smart. Look at what they’ve done over the past years with Robbie’s career; they’re fundamental to his success, so I’m delighted to be working with them and I’m truly excited to be working with Robbie. 

What should people expect from the new album?

He’s been working with [co-writer] Guy [Chambers] again, so they’re just typically Robbie, big anthemic songs and, also typically of Robbie, some beautiful, emotional ballads.   

He’s signed for the world, so will we see him give the US another go?

It’s a worldwide deal, we’re a worldwide company, and now that we’ve signed him, we can have those conversations. 

As Music Week’s analysis of his sales figures showed, he’s an incredibly consistent maker of huge-selling albums. Can he keep that record up?

He’s an incredible talent who’s very, very successful, and we shall continue that success – and if we can do a little bit better than before, we’ll be delighted…

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