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News November 1, 2021

Dami Im on the toxic culture at Sony: “I just always felt really disrespected”

Dami Im on the toxic culture at Sony: “I just always felt really disrespected”

In the aftermath of Four Corners’ investigation into the toxic corporate culture at Sony Music Australia, former signee Dami Im has detailed her experience at the label.

Speaking with The AustralianDami Im, who was signed to Sony from 2013 until 2019, detailed the power imbalance and lack of creative control she experienced during her time at Sony. Noting that Sony “treated me like I was their worker, rather than an artist.”

Im signed to Sony after winning the fifth season of The X Factor Australia, she released four albums under the label — three of which were almost entirely covers.  “I left Sony because I wanted control, and to be my own boss,” she says.

Im spoke at lengths about the lack of creative control she had over her career, claiming that senior executives, including former CEO Denis Handlin, would call the shots on her career despite rarely attending her shows.

“[Handlin] seemed to think he knew what was best for me,” she said. “He would always say, ‘I’ve got your back. I know what’s best for you. I’m protecting your brand.’ I’m like, ‘Well, how can you know my brand when you don’t come to my shows?’”

Im continued, “I think because I was managed by Sony as well [as having a recording contract], that made the label feel like they owned me. They treated me like I was their worker, rather than an artist.

“An artist should have equal say to the company. I really wasn’t treated like an equal. My biggest issue was I didn’t have creative freedom or creative control.

“I’m somebody who’s really open to working with the company, and not just pushing against them for the sake of my ego; if they’re funding it, I’d like them to be happy with what I’m doing,” she adds.

“But I always felt it wasn’t reciprocated; for some reason, even though my albums and singles were going platinum and gold, and I was doing very well, I just always felt really disrespected.”

Last month, Four Corners aired Facing The Music, a damning exposé that chronicled the rise-and-fall of Sony CEO Denis Handlin, and the toxic corporate culture that manifested under his leadership.

The investigation saw several current and former Sony Music Australia employees detail the harrowing culture of systemic bullying, discrimination, and misconduct under Handlin.

Handlin abruptly left Sony Music in June after 51 years’ service (37 of those spent as CEO) with Sony Music’s global head office announcing it was investigating the “workplace culture,” but saying only that the outgoing chief was departing because it was “time for a change of leadership”.

Following the Four Corners exposé, Denis Handlin was stripped of his honorary Queensland Music Award, his ARIA Icon Award, and his APRA-honoured Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services.

“It wasn’t shocking, because everybody who was signed to Sony or worked there, we all knew that was going on,” Im says of Facing The Music. “I was shocked very early on in my career rather than while watching it. It’s good to see at least some of it come out, and people know more about that.”

Im notes that “watching it made me feel a little bit heard and understood,” because up until the investigation aired “none of us could really talk about it because no one would understand it.”

“At least now, when I speak about my experience of those frustrating years in the company, people understand a bit more,” she says.

Dami Im released her sixth album, My Reality, on Friday October 29th via ABC Music.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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