Denis Handlin AO is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Music Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd and Sony Music Entertainment New Zealand Limited.
Sony Music Entertainment has played a pioneering role in music history, from the first-ever music label to the invention of the flat disc record. The company has nurtured some of music’s most iconic artists and produced some of the most influential recordings of all time, which today includes supporting a diverse roster of international superstars, developing and independent artists, and visionary creators. From the position of being at the intersection of music, entertainment and technology, Sony Music brings imagination and expertise to the newest products and platforms, embraces new business models, employs breakthrough tools, and provides powerful insights that help artists push creative boundaries and reach new audiences. In everything that the company does, it is committed to artistic integrity, transparency and entrepreneurship. Sony Music Entertainment is a member of the Sony family of global companies.
Born in Brisbane, Queensland in 1951, Denis was educated at St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane. Denis started with the Australian Record Company (now Sony Music) in May 1970 in the Distribution Division in Brisbane, making him the longest serving global Sony Music employee. In 1976 he moved to Sony Music's head office in Sydney and held a number of senior positions including National Promotions Manager, Director of Marketing and General Manager, Marketing and Sales.
Denis was appointed Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Australian company in 1984. In February 1996, he was made Chairman, Sony Music Entertainment Australia Limited.
Following the global merger of Sony Music and Bertelsmann Media Group, Denis was appointed in September 2004 as Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of SONY BMG Australia & New Zealand. In September 2008, following Sony Corporation acquiring Bertelsmann’s share in SONY BMG, the company was renamed to Sony Music Entertainment from January 2009.
In September 2010, in addition to his Australia and New Zealand responsibilities, Denis was appointed President, South East Asia & Korea, including managing the day-to-day operations of the Asian Regional Office located in Hong Kong. In August 2011, Denis’ role was further expanded as President, Asia, where he oversaw a far-reaching and diverse region that included responsibility for Asian countries including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, the Middle East region, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
In January 2020, it was announced that Denis, after successfully overseeing the Asia Pacific region for a decade and having driven the setup of Sony Music’s Asia businesses operations, would now exclusively focus on leading the future of the Australia and New Zealand companies. In making the announcement, Rob Stringer, Chairman, Sony Music Group, said:
“Denis has been very instrumental in our Company’s development in this region and has assembled an excellent leadership team in Asia equipped to execute on our strategic initiatives and expand the progress on our commercial activities there.
As part of this new mandate, the next chapter of Denis’ illustrious career will be to continue expanding Sony Music’s portfolio of new business verticals in Australia and New Zealand while continuing his enviable track record developing local artists and breaking international acts.”
Since Denis became Chief Executive in 1984, Sony Music (previously CBS Records) successfully expanded into many new areas such as video games, music publishing, CD and DVD manufacturing, digital and online portals, and television and content creation. More recently, the company has diversified into new business verticals that include touring and events, merchandise, podcasting, artist, sports and media personality management, studio expansion and branded entertainment projects. Sony Music has consistently been one of the top performing music companies globally and on a number of occasions Sony Music Australia was the top performing international affiliate of Sony Music.
Denis is renowned for his highly competitive spirit and his championing of local talent. Under his leadership, Australian artists such as Men at Work, Midnight Oil, Silverchair, John Farnham, Daryl Braithwaite, Tina Arena, Delta Goodrem, Human Nature, David Campbell, Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Tones And I, Amy Shark, Tash Sultana, Gang of Youths, Ruel and The Kid Laroi have achieved international recognition and success.
In May 1996, Denis became the first Australian and the first Sony Music Entertainment executive to be honoured with the CEO Special Recognition Award presented by Sony Chairman and CEO Norio Ohga. The award is presented annually to the one Sony executive worldwide who has achieved unique or extraordinary results in their professional activities. Senior executives from all of Sony’s operating groups can be nominated for the Award. In that year, 147 executives were nominated, from which 21 finalists were drawn.
Denis has a deep involvement in the music industry. He has been a member of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Board since 1984 and held the position of Chairman of ARIA for an unprecedented ten consecutive years. He was reappointed ARIA Chairman in September 2010 and continues to hold that position. Denis has also held positions on the Boards of several industry associations and has held various positions including Chairman of the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia and Chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Asia Pacific Board.
Outside of the music industry, Denis is strongly committed to community work and is a founding member of Sony Foundation Australia, which has raised over $35 million since 1998 for youth based charitable causes. Denis was appointed as a Patron of the Youth Off The Streets scholarship program in its inaugural year in 2004 and is an inaugural Board Member of the Ricky Stuart Foundation which was formed in 2012 that raises funds to establish awareness and services for autism.
Denis has also been a mentor of the Queensland State of Origin rugby league team since 2006, during which the team achieved unprecedented success of 11 Series wins.
In the Australia Day Honours List in 2005, Denis was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of:
“service to the music industry, particularly through the promotion of Australian musicians, to professional organisations, and to the community through fundraising for charitable organisations”.
In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2017, Denis was elevated to and awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), in recognition of:
“for distinguished service to the Australian recording industry, through leadership and mentoring roles, as a supporter of young artists, and to charitable organisations as a director, patron and contributor”.
On June 23, 2009, Denis received the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music from the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). This prestigious Award is chosen by the APRA Board of Songwriters and Music Publisher Directors.
In October 2014, a special Sony Foundation event was held to recognise Denis' 30 years leading Sony Music Australia. The event raised funds to create a special endowment fund to provide annual grants to support children with disabilities.
Denis was awarded the ARIA Industry Icon Award by the ARIA Board in November 2014. The award was presented to him at the 2014 ARIA Awards Chairman’s Cocktail Party by his long-term friend and industry colleague, Molly Meldrum, and Sony Music artist, Jessica Mauboy. The award is made in recognition of Denis’ outstanding contribution to the development of the Australian music industry, in particular Australian artists and industry copyright and reform matters.
In May 2017, Denis as a Sony Foundation co-founder, accepted on behalf of the Sony Foundation, a special award at the Sony Annual Management conference in Tokyo. The award was presented by CEO & President of Sony Corporation, Kaz Hirai, and recognised the Foundation’s outstanding contribution achieved from fundraising events to the benefit of the community and charitable causes through its programs, employee engagement, collaboration with business partners, Sony Music artists and ambassadors.
Denis was announced as the Number 1 most influential figure in the Australian music industry in February 2018. The list is published annually by music industry publication, ‘themusic’, published by Street Press Australia. The annual countdown “encompasses all aspects of what goes on behind the scenes of the Australian music industry, including label heads, promoters, playlisters, festival organisers, music directors, radio figures and representatives of peak music bodies”.
Denis has been married to his wife Jan for longer than he has been leading Sony Music. They married in 1977 and have six children.
ARIA Board Member
George Ash is the Managing Director of Universal Music Australia (UMA), a division of the Universal Music Group.
Prior to George's current position with Universal Music Australia, he held positions as Managing Director, Universal Music NZ, Managing Director, MCA Geffen NZ and held key management roles at BMG NZ. George has also held roles in Polygram Manufacturing and in the Retail sector.
George's passion for the music industry began as a musician and has spanned 25 years including holding a variety of roles in key industry bodies within the NZ Industry before relocating to Australia in his current role in 2001.
ARIA Board Member
Libby Blakey is the Business Affairs Director for Warner Music Australia. She first joined Warner Music in 2005, after holding the role of Business Affairs Director at Festival Mushroom Music.
ARIA Board Member
Sebastian is the founder MGM Distribution, one of Australia’s most diverse distributors of Australian music, working with many indie artists including John Butler, The Waifs and The Beautiful Girls. He has played an integral role in the evolution of Australian music, starting his career by managing legendary bands such as Rose Tattoo, Dragon and the early days of Cold Chisel.
In the 80s, Sebastian established Chase Records, a pioneer at offering major distribution (via CBS, now Sony BMG) to other independent labels such as Survival Records. From there, he established rooArt Records together with Chris Murphy & Justin Van Stom, leaving in the 90s to become a partner in Phantom Records. He later went on to found the Black Yak label in partnership with Tim Freedman from The Whitlams.
Sebastian has become a key advisor to some of Australia’s most iconic talents and his DIY model is changing the way independent artists bring their music to the fans.
ARIA Board Member
Karen Don is Senior Vice President, Legal and Business Affairs for Universal Music Australia (UMA), a division of Universal Music Group.
Karen has been with UMA since July 1999. Before joining UMA, Karen was the in-house lawyer at ARIA and PPCA.
She has been a member of the ARIA Copyright Committee since joining UMA and has participated in a number of industry panels to discuss copyright protections and other intellectual property issues.
Karen holds Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees from Macquarie University, Sydney.
ARIA Board Member
Sophie McArthur is the General Manager of Digital & Business Development, Australia & New Zealand & Asia at Sony Music Entertainment.
In Sophie’s role at Sony Music, she is responsible for developing new and existing digital music services, and through this, she has established strong partnerships with digital service providers, social platforms, brands and artists to create and execute intergrated creative campaigns. In addition, Sophie has developed innovative business models and strategies to build an ecosystem for artist development and fan engagement.
Her passion for music combined with a global mindset and experience within the Asia Pacific region, has seen her execute global campaigns for key Australian artists including Amy Shark, Tash Sultana and Peking Duk to name a few.
Sophie commenced at Sony Music in 2013, bringing with her a wealth of experience from the entertainment sector with her previous roles at Seven Network, SBS and Pacific Magazines. During her time at Sony Music, Sophie’s focus on forward thinking and innovative solutions has proved invaluable in the ever-changing landscape of the dynamic music industry. Sophie is a proud mentor to many and a passionate advocate for progressive and positive change.
ARIA Board Member
Niko Nordström was appointed President of Warner Music Australasia on 1 April 2017 and is based in Warner Music Australia’s Sydney office. Niko previously served as Managing Director of Warner Music Finland (commencing in 2007), and additionally held the role of Vice President of Warner Music Nordics. During Niko’s tenure as Managing Director of Warner Music Finland, the company’s market share has doubled from 15.1 per cent to 30.6 per cent. Warner Music Finland’s A&R success has been well recognized with its artists collecting more than 50 per cent of the all the awards in the Local Grammies and the company being named record label of the year for eight years in a row at the Music Industry Awards.
Before joining Warner Niko ran his own label HMC – Helsinki Music Company, which was an innovative and modern music company with active 360-elements under one roof; label, publishing and agency activities. HMC was bought by Warner Music in 2007. In addition, Niko has held several positions of responsibility in different organizations. He was a chairman of the board of IFPI Finland and also a board member of Gramex, Finland’s copyright society for artists and producers. Niko holds a degree in marketing and business administration at the Helsinki School of Economics.
ARIA Board Member
David Vodicka is the managing director of the Rubber Group of Companies which includes independent record label Rubber Records and music publisher Rubber Music Publishing. He is also Principal of entertainment law firm Media Arts Lawyers and has had extensive experience with 20 years practice representing all facets of the music industry.
He is a passionate advocate for local music and creative industries and in addition to his position on the ARIA Board, he is presently also chairman of the board of AIR (Australian Independent Record labels association), a current board member of MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival), the Vice President of the WIN (Worldwide Independent Network) and is also a board member of PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia).
ARIA Board Member
Natalie Waller is the Head of ABC Music & Events, within the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and has held this role since 2012.
Natalie joined the ABC in 1998 in the ABC Music business team and held various roles including Business Manager. She has worked across many genres within ABC Music mainly specialising in Australian music and championing niche genres. She also works with well-known ABC music brands.
Natalie currently holds the position as Vice Chair on the Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) board and is part of the Country Music Association (CMA) Australian Task Force.
ARIA Chief Executive Officer
Annabelle joins ARIA and PPCA following a 16-year career at Network 10 where she most recently held the role of Chief Operating Officer. At Network 10, Annabelle was responsible for leading the network’s broadcast operations; group strategy; corporate and internal communications; interstate markets; policy, regulatory, compliance and government affairs; and lobbying and stakeholder relations.
Prior to Network 10, she spent several years working at senior levels in Canberra with Government, which culminated in four years as Senior Advisor (Broadcasting and Copyright) and Acting Chief of Staff for then Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon. Richard Alston AO. Her other Canberra based roles included Government Lawyer within the intellectual property branch of the Attorney-General’s Department and Executive Officer of the Australian Digital Alliance and Australian Libraries Copyright Committee from 1996.
Annabelle received her Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from the Australian National University. She is a Board Member of Save The Children Australia, and a Council Member of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS). Annabelle was previously a board member of Freeview Australia and Free TV Australia. Annabelle was invited to be a participant in the 2019 McKinsey Remarkable Women Program.