Approving Beatles synchs is no small task. Sony/ATV has a "Beatles Board," an ad hoc group of company executives who discuss the flood of requests for the Fab Four's music. Master usages are seldom allowed (one notable exception was for an episode of Mad Men). "We're always sensitive to the setting and how the song will be used, and we wouldn't grant anything not in keeping with The Beatles and what they stand for," says Friedman. The usage did not require the approval of those who wrote "Hey Jude," Paul McCartney and the late John Lennon (through his widow, Yoko Ono).
According to executive vp international Guy Henderson, the film/TV licensing business in China -- where Sony/ATV operates two offices, the other in Shanghai -- has doubled since 2011 to "a few dozen synchs" every year. A key reason for the expansion? China's exploding middle class, which a fall 2015 report by Credit Suisse named the biggest in the world. That population boom has spurred increases in advertising, including for such high-ticket items as luxury cars. To wit: Sony/ATV has licensed nine songs for Chinese car commercials, including Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," The Who's "My Generation" and Queen's "I Was Born to Love You." Says Henderson: "The most [common] requests are for pop music or iconic songs, such as 'Happy Together,' 'Over the Rainbow,' 'We Are the Champions' and 'We Will Rock You.'"
With licensing for both film and TV on the upswing -- as well as exposure to Anglo repertoire through legitimate streaming services -- Henderson expects China to be a significant revenue producer for Sony/ATV in the future. Currently, China is well behind the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, but Henderson predicts that "in time, it will become our biggest territory behind the U.K. and the U.S."
This article was originally published in the May 14 issue of Billboard.