Sony Music Hires CEO Who Has Admitted He Doesn't Know How To Run A Modern Record Label

from the that'll-end-well dept

Back in 2007, we wrote about a rather stunning interview with (then) Universal Music CEO Doug Morris, done by Wired Magazine, in which he happily admitted that he was totally clueless on all issues important for running a record label in the modern world. He insisted that offering anything for free meant "someone, somewhere, is taking advantage of you." But the key part of the interview -- the really telling part was the following:
"There's no one in the record company that's a technologist," Morris explains. "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?"

Personally, I would hire a vet. But to Morris, even that wasn't an option. "We didn't know who to hire," he says, becoming more agitated. "I wouldn't be able to recognize a good technology person -- anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me." Morris' almost willful cluelessness is telling. "He wasn't prepared for a business that was going to be so totally disrupted by technology," says a longtime industry insider who has worked with Morris. "He just doesn't have that kind of mind."
Think about that for a second. Here is the guy in charge of the largest record label in the world, telling a reporter that not only was he so clueless that he couldn't understand where the market is headed, but on top of that his own level of cluelessness was so entrenched that he wouldn't even know how to hire someone to help him understand where the future is. What shocked me was that he kept his job. I mean, if you were the board of directors of Universal, and the guy in charge of your company not only admitted that he didn't know what to do with the company, but then went on to admit that he didn't even know how to hire the right people to deal with the future, how do you let him keep his job?

Morris did finally step down a few years later, replaced by a guy with a similar philosophy. However, back in January, we heard rumors that Morris was headed to Sony Music -- and now it's official, as Morris has been named CEO of Sony Music.

Once again, I'm left scratching my head. So not only does he keep his job for years, but now another major record label hires the same guy who happily admitted he's not even remotely qualified for the job of running a major label? Nice going Sony.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

    I am absolutely confident that in 4 years, he hasn't learned a thing. People never advance, they never move ahead, they never grow.

    I am sure he has absolutely no other job skills either.

    It's Friday Mike, isn't it time to give up for the weekend already?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Brendan (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 3:10pm


    And I'm just as confident that he'll lead to a full and robust recovery with an attitude even remotely resembling his previous one.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 3:16pm


    If Sony Music emerges as a truly innovative digital leader, I'll concede your point here, and be thrilled to do so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    coldbrew, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    Shill is tired. Please stop posting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 3:35pm


    Because no one has ever been known to fail upwards! I bet if you asked Doug Morris about the market for music he'd wax poetically over radio and sneer at the web.

    Mark Zuckerberg is more of a rock star than any rock stars working today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Pitabred (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 3:37pm


    He had the benefit of the doubt the first time. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." He proved he was incompetent once. I'm not holding out high hopes he's going to magically become more competent.

    These CEOs and such are all golf buddies. It has nothing to do with skill or talent. It's all in who you know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    cc (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 3:57pm

    Do you guys realise this guy has been CEO of Warner Music (1994-95), Universal Records (1995-2011) and now Sony Music Ent't? He may be a technophobe, but he does have the right connections to keep the cartel going.

    Moreover, I find the timing somewhat odd, considering Universal has so far been saying they are not interested in buying up EMI. Could it be that this is a sign they may be changing their minds?

    Also, I heard he's a member of the Illuminati, lol..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    vacuum369 (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 4:09pm

    That Doesn't Surpeise Me!

    SONY, my (and MANY others) opinion single handedly DESTROYING recorded music, rather.. they are trying to do so! They push Inferior Technology claiming it is better than others (SACD vs DVD-A)& Mini Discs!!!!! They have DESTROYED more than one music career!!!!! Michael Jackson was right when he said "Sony is the Devil"!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 4:12pm

    Sony explained their decision

    by quoting Morris: "We didn't know who to hire!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 5:02pm

    It's the dumb leading the dumb.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 6:20pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

    You know what the difference between Stephen Hawking and Mike Masnick is?

    Stephen Hawking doesn't believe he's the smartest man on Earth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 7:55pm

    Re: Re:


    Truthfully I have been wondering, if several, if not all of the people on the boards of these companies, has Put options and-or are going short on the companies they are running. I can not think of any other reason they would be trying to wreck these companies. They really can not be as stupid as they seem.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

    I clicked funny because your trolling makes me laugh.
    I clicked insightful because of your hawkings line.
    I clicked report just to be like you, a total dick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2011 @ 12:00am


    Right, so why you keep writing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    AnShLv, Mar 5th, 2011 @ 2:16am

    Right or wrong

    No matter what you claim, I suppose it depends on what conclusions does a person make. Sounds strange, but if you know you are weak at something, you already are in the right way. While those, who say they are strong, often are also weak, but too self-confident.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    The eejit (profile), Mar 5th, 2011 @ 3:16am


    No, the weekend is when the fun BEGINS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Chargone (profile), Mar 5th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    i've seen a quote somewhere, i forget the source, that was supposed to be critisizing the business culture in NZ... the gist of it was this though:

    here, if someone runs a company into the ground, no one would touch them with a ten foot pole when it came to running another one. they're a failure, and thus clearly bad at it.

    in the states, so the story goes, they'd be top of the list of people to hire, being both experienced and otherwise unoccupied.

    now, that doesn't apply so much when the company kept right on making money, rather than actually failing, but this sort of silliness does seem an example of similar thinking.

    that or those who pull the strings really see tech as such a threat, and hate it so much, that they see that degree of cluelessness as a Positive factor, because it means he's not ever going to try to make them change to deal with it, and thus is more likely to focus resources on the legislation angle etc.

    basically, the entire share market/corporate structure/whatever encourages moronic behavior targeted at maximizing short term profit even if it causes the corporation itself to self destruct... depending on the nature of those making the decisions and the industry in question, (see banks etc), it may even take a large chunk of the globe with it (metaphorically... or even physically if one is increadably unlucky, i guess) and it would not change that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Chuck D. Money (profile), Mar 6th, 2011 @ 11:51am

    Re: NZ Business answer your somewhat rhetorical question...

    In the US, an executive is sought after by other companies IF he made the other executives money at his previous job. The question is not whether the COMPANY made money, but whether the C*O's made money. If they did, then other companies want to hire him. If not, he isn't wanted, no matter if he ran the best or worst company in the country. Ken Lay had no less than 27 job offers on the table even AFTER his indictment. Only after his conviction were they withdrawn. This is because, despite running Enron into the ground, virtually all of the Enron EXECUTIVES made a BOATLOAD of money, even if the company as a whole totally tanked. That's all the reason other companies needed to want to hire him.

    Now beyond that, there's another, more specific reason why Sony wants this guy. Sony isn't evil, per se, they're simply imperialistic. Sony is unique in that they own a chunk of practically every industry that involves a transistor. From media players to cell phones to computers to movies to music, even the gaming space, both portable and in-home. This leads Sony to try to do NOTHING that might cannibalize another portion of their business. In the end, Sony would be better off if you could download Sony music - or any other, studio (this is critical, people HATE walled gardens) - directly into the PSP, PS3, and Sony cell phones. Instead, in an effort to keep Sony Music sales up, one must buy a physical CD from Sony, then rip it, and then you can only have the music on a single device at once thanks to the DRM.

    So, Sony, here's a thought: If you want to compete, build your brand. I know, you have one hell of a brand already, but you're not building ONE brand, you're building a dozen of them. Apple is not successful because their users have to re-purchase a song for every device they want to hear it on. They're not successful because the user had to manually copy the song 10 different places. They're successful because they provide an integrated EXPERIENCE, where they click a single button, and the song appears on every Apple device they own, period. (Note: I'm a Linux user, but even a geek who recognizes Apple's flaws has to admire their distribution systems.) Instead of punishing your customers, REWARD your loyalest customers by allowing any song on the Sony label to be played by an infinite number of devices, provided they're Sony devices. If a consumer has a choice of buying a song on iTunes for 99 cents, and getting it on their laptop, phone, and...nothing else, or buying the same song on a Sony Vaio, and having it available on their Sony Erickson Phone, Sony PS3, Sony PSP, Sony Vaio, Sony Bravia TV, and whatever else, they'd gladly use your product instead simply for the convenience of not having to download the same product 10 times (or even worse, pay for the same product 10 times!) Sure, this will cost you $9 you could've theoretically made (though in truth, they'd just go elsewhere, so without this level of integration, the sale is lost regardless) but you'll sell at least $5000 of extra hardware you otherwise wouldn't have. Frankly, Sony, you're the only company in the world besides Apple capable of selling the entire experience, and you could do so even better than them. Yet, instead, you run 6 or 7 separate companies and you do your dead level best to ensure they never overlap or conflict, for fear you might lose a dollar today. Yet, until you're willing to do that, you'll never make 2 dollars tomorrow. You're in a unique position Sony, you can sell the entire package, the whole big integrated experience. Wouldn't it be worth losing a little today to profit from practically everything with an integrated circuit tomorrow?

    On a more technological note, I have to also point out that part of Sony's issue is the LACK of a single device that does everything. Integrating a whole universe of devices to be compatible and sync flawlessly is a major achievement that Sony really should strive for, but Apple is admittedly a bad comparison. The iPad, for all its faults (and as a Linux user, I can tell you it has a plethora of them) is the "singularity" device because it replaces practically everything. It's not the perfect eBook reader, it's not the perfect music player, it's not the perfect web browser, and it's not the perfect word processor. Yet, it does all of this well enough that it's a viable replacement for all of them within reason, and that's why it's the smash hit that it is. Sure, an iPod makes a better music player, but it's unusable in any other role. A MacBook is the superior Word Processor and Web Browser, but it's not mobile enough for an eBook reader nor a dedicated Music Player. The iPad works because, while it's not perfect for anything, it's viable for everything. It's the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. Do you think MacBook and iPod sales took a BIG hit when they released the iPad? If not, you're an idiot. Yet, overall, Apple made enough money to cover the dip in sales of its other platforms, and then many boatloads more. Sony won't do this at first, the transformation would just be too big for them. However, they can begin by better integrating the systems they already have. Once they make that work, and they realize of their own accord that a minor dip in digital music sales will net them a MASSIVE boost in hardware sales, they'll see the light.

    Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    CensoredBloggah (profile), Mar 6th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    This pretty much paves the way for a Sony/UMG merger that's been in the set up stages for months. It started with the musical chairs, what people don't realize is that while Doug Morris is now the CEO of Sony, as part of his contract with UMG he's still on the board of directors until 2013. This would for obvious reasons be a massive conflict of interest if it wasn't part of a strategy and agreed to by all parties.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    CensoredBloggah (profile), Mar 6th, 2011 @ 12:46pm


    Also to add into this as part of the labels reorganization strategy Island Def Jam and Universal Motown are in the beginning stages of combining and will then likely be under the Interscope umbrella. Interscope is the only record label right now showing a profit because they have acts that generate an incredible amount of income in licensing, touring, advertising through social media (YouTube Vevo etc) and have loyal fan bases who purchase music. (Eminem, Lady GaGa, Black Eyed Peas)

    They've been doing an artist imprint shuffle over there for about nine months now. When they announce the mergers they will of course point their fingers at piracy but that is far from the case. When you take into consideration the fact that IDJ has Justin Bieber, and Motown has Drake/Lil Wayne/Nicki Minaj and then throw in Sony's roster you start to realize all they are doing is consolidating to net a larger profit with less mouths to feed.

    They might be still playing catch up and learning about technology, but they have figured out the most important aspect of technology.. It requires half the people, half the overhead, and brings in the type of money not covered in a typical recording contract so they don't have to pay it out. I don't think these guys are as dumb as they would love people to believe they are... Especially Doug Morris.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2011 @ 6:51pm

    I'm pretty sure that there's lots of technologists in other divisions of Sony. Is there a problem for seniors of one division of Sony to see advise from other divisions?

    I'm left scratching my head too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    jbender (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 11:49am

    What's being missed here is that Doug Morris is a tremendous music man, with an unmatched track record in recognizing marketable pop music and attracting top talent. That's what Sony wants.

    At the risk of heresy, technology is a means to deliver sound waves, via whatever platform, and not an end in itself. The product is music, and that's what Morris does.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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