The Guardian Article

Who gives a shit what some nobody in the U.K has to say about the most legendary recording executive still working in the business.  The biz is a closed club built on relationships and the opinion of an interloper is irrelevant.

Then again, it’s interlopers who decimated the cash cow.  Call it Shawn Fanning.  He didn’t ask anybody’s permission.  He just took the music.  In an era when executives still had their e-mail printed out, when not only were they not tech-savvy, but they didn’t realize they’d abused both their customers and their clientele and given a chance for revenge, they’d both take it.

It’s not only the customers, stealing willy-nilly and now listening on  YouTube, the world’s number one music service, but the acts. There isn’t a superstar who’ll sign with a major label unless the terms are so heinous the label won’t make any money anyway. Then, still…  Until the business model of the labels is to give most of the profits to the acts, at least half, the exodus will sustain. It’s like plantation owners trying to keep slaves in an era of emancipation.  Sure, some people might stick around for food and shelter, but most will say huh?  

But the recording contract is worse than slavery.  They kick you out while you’re still alive but keep almost all of the future profits, well at least those from recording.  And if you make a new deal, working for your owner is not enough, they want a percentage of your fun in the little off time you’ve got, they’re charging you to have sex and fun in the contract known as the 360 deal.

Doug Morris has proven he can sign hit acts and market them in the old school way.  A necessary talent for future success.  But is it the only one?

Insiders know Doug’s skill is not developing talent.  History will record that Doug’s innovative paradigm was research.  Tracking records at radio and retail and latching on to developing acts.  He signed 2 Live Crew, not Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen.  That was John Hammond, and Doug Morris is no John Hammond, not a person who can see a diamond in the rough and polish it for mass consumption.

And now radio and retail mean less than ever before.  Is there anybody who thinks indie stores and terrestrial radio are going to make a comeback?  So the question is, what is the new game and will Morris be good at it?

Based on the last ten years, one has to say no.  From Jimmy and Doug’s Farm Club to Pressplay Morris has missed the mark.  As for Vevo…good in theory, but check the balance sheet, it’s a disaster, with profits far in the distance if on the horizon at all.

As Jason Epstein said in "The New York Review Of Books":

"Technological change is discontinuous.  The monks in their scriptoria did not invent the printing press, horse breeders did not invent the motorcar, and the music industry did not invent the iPod or launch iTunes."

In other words, if you’re looking to Mr. Morris and the labels to invent the future, you’re sorely mistaken.  Change comes from the outside.

Does this game even work?  Everyone knows the money’s on the road.  Maybe recording revenues will never be the major piece of the pie again.  And whose side do you really want to be on?  Despite protestations by the execs, the labels and the acts have an adversarial relationship.  In other words, Jimmy Iovine’s got a lot more loyalty to Doug than any artist.  If you want to find someone in bed with the artists, who they trust, it’s Irving Azoff.  What did Don Henley so famously say?  "He may be Satan, but he’s OUR Satan."?  I don’t hear any acts testifying about Morris this way.  And Irving is the most powerful person in the business, not Doug.  Doug missed this complete sea change.  As did Rob Stringer and Sony Music.  As did Sony itself.  Its profits and power eclipsed by Apple.  It’s Apple that overcharges for a premium product that the public can’t get enough of.  That used to be Sony’s turf.

Back when Sony innovated.  Brought out new products that lasted for a decade or more.  Unlike Doug, who gave us Chumbawamba.

Sony has got two choices.  Either ramp down new music development and become a licensing house or blow the place up and start over.  Because continuing to do it the old way ensures economic marginalization.  Breaking acts the old way just isn’t cost effective, especially when you overpay the execs.  Newbies share the wealth with their charges.  They only make it when the act does.  Like managers.  Let’s see Doug work for a $1 and stock, like Steve Jobs.

Don’t make me laugh.

The old model has been destroyed.

Who will invent the new model?


Doug is 72.  Irving’s 63.  They’re not going to be around forever.  Those who rule in the future won’t win on intimidation as much as loyalty, trust and honesty and a knowledge of the landscape.

If you’re in it to get rich quick, you should develop a game for Facebook.  Music is now long term.  The rewards, if they exist, will be evidenced years down the line.  When Doug will be too old.  And it’s Mo who was in it for the long haul, not Doug.

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