Sony Launches Battery, New Urban Label

Sony has launched a new urban imprint dedicated to reviving the practice of artist development, has learned.

Battery Records will be lead by Penalty Records Founder Neil Levine and distributed through Sony’s RED Marketing Group.

While operating as it’s own independent company, Battery Records will primarily be responsible for the early-stage development of certain artists on the rosters of the RCA and Zomba groups of labels.

“We started operation back in mid-June, so it’s a brand new division,” Neil Levine told “It’s really an incubator imprint label. Our main focus is really taking developing artists that are signed to our frontline labels. Through my division, we have our own promotions staff, publicity, online, product management. So it’s really an independent division that’s part of Sony.”

New York-based Battery is already developing new projects by three up-and-coming Southern artists: Atlanta’s Sir Will, Sunny Valentine from Tyler Texas, who attained regional success last year with his single “F U Pay Me;” and Nashville’s Lil’ Goonie, who are all signed Sony’s Jive imprint.

“Most of the new artists will be signed to one of our proprietary front line labels and given to us to develop,” Levine explained. “We will also be doing a certain amount of our own deals. And more of our deals will be with established artists that have a strong brand out there, that have been through multi-nationals, that wanna really own and control their destiny. For those artists, we’ll be doing non-traditional deal models, more on the distribution side of the business [while] offering some label services to those artists.”

By partnering Battery Records with RED, which has already established itself with Rock and Pop acts, Sony hopes to create non-traditional situations that will help revitalize the music business as a whole.

Artists also have the opportunity to be promoted through various Sony-owned brands, which spans touring, movies, gaming, publishing, merchandising agreements and DVD releases.

The new imprint plans to defy what has become the norm with major labels in the current market climate by keeping its roster small, so that every artist remains a priority.

In addition to the resources available to Battery as part of Sony, the new label will also benefit from the years of urban music experience Levine brings to the table.

Even before launching Penalty, which was home to such artists as Capone-N-Noreaga, Lord Finesse and The Beatnuts, Levine’s first foray into the world of Hip-Hop was with Round The Globe Music, one of the earliest marketing and promotions companies that promoted the art form in its early days.

“I been doing this a long time, and I remember back in the day, you wouldn’t think about dropping an album without having had a number of singles out, unless there was a demand for that product,” added Levine. “So for us, it’s really kind of taking it back to the basics. Trying to focus on good music, artists that have a staying power, artists that are stars.”

Since Penalty was absorbed into Tommy Boy Records in 1999, Levine has held positions with TVT Records and Ryko, before landing at Imperial Records, where he oversaw the releases of Fat Joe’s last two albums.