Jim Carroll

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Doug talks!

Universal Music boss Doug Morris has become the latest record industry boss to unburden himself of his thoughts about the demise of the record industry. Morris’s interview with Wired magazine has already attracted much attention, chiefly for his views on …

Fri, Nov 30, 2007, 10:21

   

Universal Music boss Doug Morris has become the latest record industry boss to unburden himself of his thoughts about the demise of the record industry.

Morris’s interview with Wired magazine has already attracted much attention, chiefly for his views on how the digital revolution has messed with his $7 billion a year business.

rickrubinnyt1.jpgIt seems to have become de rigueur in recent months for record label chiefs to make state of the nation addresses in the course of press interviews.

In October, the New York Times talked at length to incoming Columbia Records co-head Rick Rubin, where he expressed the belief that subscription services would save the industry. He also outlined his plans to establish a word of mouth department at the label to spread the buzz about their acts.

It would have been interesting to know what the highly experienced Morris made of such a plan.

However, the Wired interview concentrated for the most part on the past and particularly why companies like Universal were caught short when Napster and other peer-to-peer and file sharing networks began to appear.

Morris claims it was down to a lack of in-house knowledge, rather than incompetence and ignorance. “There’s no one in the record company that’s a technologist. That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do. It’s like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?

“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”.

When Steve Jobs came along, though, Morris opened the Universal vaults for him and Apple because “we were just grateful that someone was selling online. The problem is, he became a gatekeeper. We make a lot of money from him, and suddenly you’re wearing golden handcuffs. We would hate to give up that income.”

That last sentence probably encapsulates all that’s wrong with the traditional record label model at the moment.

Knowing they’ll never seen another pay-day like the CD revolution, industry chiefs like Morris are hanging onto every possible revenue source for dear life. 2008 should be a very interesting year for this sector.

Thanks to Cubik for pointing us towards the Hijinks Ensue comic strip about Morris’s interview.

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