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Australian collecting society revokes honorary award from axed Sony Music chief

By | Published on Tuesday 19 October 2021

Denis Handlin

Another honorary award has been revoked from the former boss of Sony Music Australia in the wake of the TV exposé on the toxic corporate culture at the major’s Australian division. This time it’s the Ted Albert Award presented by collecting society APRA AMCOS.

Sony Music’s long-term Australian chief Denis Handlin suddenly stood down in June as The Guardian published a report in which more than 20 former employees of the major discussed the toxic environment at its Australian division, an environment that in turn resulted in “sexual harassment at work events, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and the unfair treatment of women in the workplace”.

Pressure has been building on both Handlin and Sony Music ever since, though things escalated last week when Australian TV programme ‘Four Corners’ ran a report on what it was like working at the major.

Both summarising and expanding on the allegations in the earlier Guardian report, the programme confirmed that the issues with Handlin’s management style went back decades, having been previously investigated by Sony Music’s top guard in the US as far back as the 1990s.

Following the programme’s airing, Queensland-based music organisation QMusic revoked an honorary award it presented Handlin in 2020. Attention then fell on the similar awards previously presented to the disgraced Sony chief by trade body ARIA and collecting society APRA AMCOS.

ARIA then revoked the Icon Award it presented Handlin in 2014. And yesterday APRA AMCOS withdrew the Ted Albert Award it handed to the former Sony boss for outstanding services to Australian music in 2009.

The collecting society said in a statement: “Today, the APRA board unanimously resolved to revoke the Ted Albert Award that was presented to Denis Handlin at the APRA Music Awards 2009. APRA AMCOS is committed to fostering a music industry that upholds a high level of professional respect and conduct, and does not condone any form of bullying”.

“Every single participant in our music industry has a responsibility to act safely and respect others”, it added. “We recognise and accept there’s still much work to do in this space. We are committed to making the decisions that need to be made and to working with the broader industry so that we can collectively bring about this shift in culture”.

Although Handlin’s critics will be pleased that all of these various honorary awards have now been revoked, these moves are – of course – pretty simple gestures. The bigger challenges relate to how Sony Music will rebuild its Australian business, and how the wider music industry can ensure that bad working practices are completely eradicated from the sector.