universal Archive


Doug Morris Is Easy To Bullshit

Wired’s December issue has an insightful interview with Universal CEO Doug Morris in which the embattled executive readily admits to being so ignorant about technology that he didn’t even try to learn how to capitalize on the digital music revolution at the turn of the century. The interview isn’t posted online yet Read the interview here, but this choice excerpt sums it all up:

“There’s no one in the record industry 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.”


It boggles my mind that an entire industry of “business savvy” executives were so myopic, egoistic, and just plain stupid as to not even learn who to talk to about the impact of digital music. I imagine Morris is exaggerating a little bit here. Out of the thousands of employees that worked for the majors in the golden age of 1.1 million first week *NSYNC CD sales, there were at least a handful of people who saw what was coming. Nay, the real problem was the music business’ stubbornness in adapting to the times. In an industry where you’re only as good as your latest numbers, there was no incentive for anyone to look at any sort of long term growth or stability. It was (and to an extent, still is) all about hitting your quarterly numbers no matter the cost. The more likely scenario is that prescient employees drafted up hundreds of pages of meticulously researched reports that were placed in the inboxes of various record label executives only to be summarily ignored and trashed because they had nothing to do with making the 4th quarter margins.

The interview goes on to talk about Universal’s Total Music venture and how Morris’s primary objective nowadays is to unseat iTunes from power. Again, Dougy is missing the point here. Guy, we’re in 2007. No one cares about you trying to show that you have a bigger dick than Steve Jobs. What you should be trying to do is creating a service with the music fan in mind. Make something that puts both Napster circa 2000 and iTunes to shame.

In other words, clone OiNK.

Update: Wired now has the interview online here 


Trent Reznor Is Being Kept Down By The Man

Nine Inch Nails’ official site for fan produced remixes of Year Zero was supposed to launch last Monday. Unfortunately, according to a post by Trent Reznor on the band’s website, legal issues brought upon by Universal Records, the band’s former label, are the cause of the site’s delay.

Universal feels that if they host our remix site, they will be opening themselves up to the accusation that they are sponsoring the same technical violation of copyright they are suing these companies for. Their premise is that if any fan decides to remix one of my masters with material Universal doesn’t own – a “mash-up”, a sample, whatever – and upload it to the site, there is no safe harbor under the DMCA (according to Universal) and they will be doing exactly what MySpace and YouTube are doing.

While Universal’s legal concerns are legitimate, the overall situation is, in one word, bullshit. Doing exactly “what MySpace and YouTube are doing” is building your consumer base. It’s nice that Universal isn’t so myopic as to prevent Reznor from launching the site, but by taking this course of action, they are implicitly condoning “what MySpace and YouTube are doing”.

Situations like this are exactly why the major labels are fading into irrelevancy. Like the Napster situation before it, if only someone saw user generated content as an opportunity to evolve the way their business instead of futilely trying to stop the juggernaut of technological evolution, they might not be in the situation they are in now. Unfortunately, they tying their own nooses with legal red tape.

Read Trent’s Post [nin.com]