Kenny Lim
Aug 2, 2010

Profile: Universal Music Group's Sandy Monteiro

President of Universal Music Group International for Southeast Asia Sandy Monteiro says the music business must embrace digital and mobile opportunities to survive.

Profile: Universal Music Group's Sandy Monteiro

"I never thought I'd join the music business," says Sandy Monteiro as he reflects on the early years of his career. The 45 year-old is the recently promoted president of Universal Music Group International for Southeast Asia, excluding India and Japan, but he began by running a restaurant in Australia. He found the work exhausting and when his father found out what he was doing for a living, he was unimpressed.

"My father said: "Of all my children, I thought you would be the one who would be using his brains to make money and here you are telling me you're using your hands". I was taken aback. The restaurant was very successful, but that did not impress my father. It made me reflect."

During this period Monteiro spent time with his brother, one of Malaysia's first music critics and the manager of a PR consultancy. One of his brother's clients was Warner Music. The executive who was heading Warner at the time was Tony Fernandes, AirAsia's current chief. He and Monteiro immediately hit it off due to their passion for music.

"He told me I had the perfect persona for the music business and how I had to give it a go." Monteiro started working on Warner's PR strategy and his career in music began.

"I couldn't believe my luck," Monteiro remembers. "I was given a good job, as head of marketing for international acts working on artistes such as Madonna and Color Me Badd."

Two years into Warner, MCA, which later became Universal Music, decided to set up shop in Malaysia. Monteiro was hired as the marketing manager and the number two in that office. He learnt to build and run a label from scratch. In 1998, Monteiro became general manager of the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM) and it was there that his career in music really took off.

"The RIM council comprised the most senior executives in the music business. I learned from the people who ran the major and independent labels. It was like going to a university of music."

In 2000, Monteiro joined pioneer digital music company Soundbuzz in Singapore, as general manager and regional director of music and marketing. Soundbuzz was developing new digital music platforms and applications for companies such as Creative Technologies, Hewlett-Packard, Nokia and Microsoft.

"Soundbuzz gave me insight to another facet of the business, that was going to be the next frontier." Unfortunately not everyone shared his vision and Monteiro was frustrated with the lack of commitment.

"The senior guys got it, but below them, there was a lot of resistance because their staff did not understand the value of digital," he says.

When the opportunity to return to Universal presented itself Monteiro didn't hesitate.

Universal wanted Monteiro to implement what he was doing in Malaysia to other markets in an expanded role. "I started with Asean, having them structure their plans for digital," he says. "In one year, we got a five-fold increase in business. I was then tasked to work with other big markets, such as India."

Monteiro says he has taken Universal's digital business to 50 per cent growth year-on-year. In 2008, he was invited to sit on Universal's global digital board where the company's digital strategy is formulated. This was the same board that came up with initiatives such as Nokia's Comes with Music, Spotify and variable pricing on iTunes.

"The music industry in Asia is going to change significantly," Monteiro says. "We cannot wait for the market to decide, we have to initiate the changes, with programmes such as ‘Comes with Music' where, rather than sell to a customer, we work with a brand and let that brand use music as a foundation for an ongoing service with their devices. Over the next 36 months, you're going to see a lot of very big brands adopt a similar strategy."

Drawing from his lobbyist experience, Monteiro feels that if Universal is offering ‘feels like free' types of services, he needs support, especially from Governments. "They need to understand the importance of the music industry from an economic and cultural point-of-view," he says. "Unless we have the right support from them, these sorts of platforms will die."

It's a fast growing business. Monteiro points out that in 14 months, Spotify has gone from launch to becoming "our third biggest economic partner. Spotify's ad-funded business model and its free service, is a successful model and this is something we're trying to bring to Asia."

Mobile is another huge piece of business for Universal. "We're working very closely with the telcos in Asia to launch new and interesting initiatives," he says. "SingTel's Amped is a pure Universal platform, which was lauded around the world. We've launched telco services in Singapore, Malaysia and we're about to launch in Indonesia and India."

Monteiro further explains that Universal wants to support its artistes for the long term.

"From Lady Gaga to Pussycat Dolls, our job is to manage ebbs and tides. We constantly look for new opportunities. We do it for international artistes and now we're doing it for local artistes."

As the music industry veteran notes, investing in new talent is a sure sign that things are going well. "You don't spend money if you think you're going to die or if your business is in decline. We invest because we see enough bright sparks in the industry to warrant this sort of investment for future growth."

Sandy Monteiro's CV

2010 President, Universal Music Group International, Southeast Asia
2007 Senior vice president, Universal Music Group International
2006 Regional vice president, Universal Music Group International
2003 Managing director, Universal Music Group Malaysia
2000 General manager Southeast Asia, regional director Asia, music and marketing, Soundbuzz
1998 General manager, RIM
1995 Marketing manager, MCA Malaysia/Universal Music Malaysia
1993 Head of international repertoire, Warner Music Malaysia

This article was originally published in the 29 July 2010 issue of Media.

Campaign Asia

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