NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — In the upcoming issue of Wired magazine, Universal CEO Doug Morris sat down for lunch and a long conversation with Wired's Seth Mnookin during which Morris confirms the worst fears of many music fans.
UMG is a major player – with roughly a 25% share of the market, it is inevitable that the strategies they pursue will have far-reaching effects on the recorded music industry at large, so it is particularly troubling when the man behind the helm is revealed to be someone who seems entirely out of touch with current trends and little understanding of the technologies that are driving innovations in the industry.
Morris is old school. After graduating from Columbia, Morris began his music career as a songwriter and took a turn as a record producer before eventually being promoted to VP at Laurie Records. He launched his own label, Big Tree Records which was eventually acquired by Atlantic. Morris was then named President of ATCO Records, operating under the Warner banner where he would spend the next 17 years, helping Ahmet Ertegun to reorganize the label group into autonomous divisions, each with an array of imprints. He also helped to innovate and launch TimeWarner's successful audio books division. His ascent was also mirrored by the rise of the compact disk, ushering the largest boom that the record industry has ever seen.
So where did the Doug Morris of the 1980s go? Mnookin paints Morris as someone from a bygone era who's apathy towards technology and contempt for downloaders is dwarfed only by his thirst for gelt, induced Mnooking to describe Morris's aspirations to "wring every dollar he can out of anyone who goes anywhere near his catalog."
At one point during the interview, Morris puts forth a colorful metaphor in which he compares the music industry to the Shmoo, an affable, pliant character from the comic strip Li'l Abner (last published in 1977) about hillbillies in the impoverished rural town of Dogpatch. The comparison is perhaps apt, but not in the way that Morris intended – quaint, backwards people, throwbacks from an earlier era.
The lie behind the notion of Morris as an innovator engendered by UMG's initial strides towards recasting their digital endeavors is starkly revealed in the profile. Not only does Morris reveal himself as someone with virtually no understanding of the technology driving the changes sweeping through the industry, he confesses that he would be incapable of discerning someone who could understand. "We didn't know who to hire, I wouldn't be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me." Morris told Mnookin. – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers