Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Sony Music’s Coming Shake Up Sends Industry Giant Doug Morris to Start New Label


There’s so much trouble at Sony Music right now, forget-about-it. The result, as revealed Saturday afternoon, is that Doug Morris, chairman of the company, is leaving at the end of March to start his own new label.

You do know that Doug– who once ran Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group– is 79 years young. But he’s in great shape, he’s an industry giant. What’s he gonna do, go home?, the industry trade, says Doug is joining up with Steve Bartels, who ran Island Def Jam and Def Jam Records to huge success. They’re going to call it 12 Tone Records. Hits got a little overwrought and first reported that Jimmy Iovine, who’s leaving Apple, was involved, too. But Iovine straightened that out: he is not nuts. He’s taking his Beats headphones and his new wife and gettin’ out of Dodge.

But the music biz is in Doug’s blood, and Bartels was forced out of Def Jam for no particular reason, so this is a pretty exciting story with lots of potential. For Morris it’s smart– Sony is in hot water. They have no hits from Columbia Records. They haven’t had one in months. I’ve heard Rob Stringer is in trouble, too. The one legacy artist that might have given Columbia-Epic a shot in the arm– Sade– has surfaced on the “Wrinkle in Time” soundtrack on Universal’s Disney label. That must be a shock.

In Japan, Sony’s CEO Kaz Hirai was replaced by Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony Corp.’s chief financial officer, who will take over as president-CEO as of April 1. The party is over.

Indeed, the industry is changing fast. LA Reid has started his Hitco with Charles Goldstuck. We may see more new smaller labels looking for hits, trying to deal with radio’s fractionalization (a word I made up) as I Heart Radio and other companies struggle to pay back ginormous loans. Everyone’s buzzing about streaming now. 12 Tone doesn’t even have to put out physical product– no one wants it anyway unless it’s from a legend or it’s a special boxed set. The whole thing can be digital.

So many people in the industry are loyal to Doug and to Steve. Will their company entice away Sylvia Rhone, who’s worked for Morris at every company and currently runs Epic Records? Could be. Epic has been on a roll lately. But Yoshida may pull the plug, combine Columbia and Epic (a rumor for decades), make Epic an imprint, and give it all to newly appointed Ron Perry. Where does that leave Stringer, who played me Adele’s album long before anyone know what was coming, and announced that it was a mega hit?

Suddenly, the world is spinning!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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