Rob Stringer picked up the Music Industry Trusts Award at a star-studded ceremony in London, as the cream of the UK and international music business turned out to pay tribute to the Sony Music Entertainment CEO.
Stringer – who grew up in Aylesbury and had a lengthy career in the UK biz before finding US success, first at Columbia and now as Sony boss – remains a hugely popular figure at home, as evidenced by the turnout at the Grosvenor House Hotel by both artists and executives.
The Manic Street Preachers – who Stringer signed while at Sony UK – presented the exec with the award, with Nicky Wire saying: “Rob always stood up for us. We probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. He trusted our artistic instincts and we trusted him.”
There were also performances from some of the artists Stringer has nurtured, with Harry Styles, current UK No.1 singer Camila Cabello, George Ezra and Jeff Lynne’s ELO all playing live at the ceremony, expertly hosted by Radio 2’s Jo Whiley.
Those paying tribute to Stringer on the big screen included James Corden (who jokingly referenced some of Stringer’s less successful signings, including Thunderbugs, Headswim and 2wo Third3), Bruce Springsteen, Michael Eavis, Pharrell Williams, Barbra Streisand (“He’s always been a hit with me – his word is his bond”), Doug Morris (“It’s been a great pleasure to watch him morph into the best music executive in the US”), Simon Cowell, Celine Dion, John Legend, Rag’N’Bone Man, Sade, Jack White and Adele. Many more top execs and artists, including Bring Me The Horizon, Paloma Faith, Mark Ronson, Hozier and London Grammar were in the audience.
But even amongst such company, it was Stringer’s own speech that drew the most attention. His wide-ranging, humourous address took in the Manics (“I love those boys – when they won two BRITs, it was one of the biggest nights of my life”), Sony UK boss Jason Iley (“He’s done more work on this than he’s done on the BRITs – he’s done an amazing amount of work. We have had 750 calls about this – we have no records in the charts but this evening has gone particularly well,” Stringer quipped), Glastonbury Festival, his beloved Luton Town FC and even his recent trip to the BRIT School, as documented in Music Week’s cover story (“I signed every single kid over 14 just in case one of them turns out to be the next Adele”).
But he also had a serious point to make, following on from his recent Music Week interview, where he outlined a number of ways in which he believes the industry needs to change.
“I want to work hard to do things the right way for artists, for the people who work with me and for the business,” he said, to wild applause. “I just want to do the right thing, I want it to be pure and honest, I’m not going to change now and if it’s tough, so be it. I want to be the person that you all hope I would be in this new role and that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
Stringer, who won the Music Week Strat Award in 2014, joins a long list of prestigious MITs winners, including Roger Daltrey, Simon Cowell, Annie Lennox and Michael Eavis. The evening raised money for two music business charities, the BRIT Trust and Nordoff Robbins.
To read Stringer’s hard-hitting Music Week cover story in full, click here.