Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Comments on Universal Music Group Head Doug Morris's Digital Meltdown

The post I did yesterday on Universal Music Group head Doug Morris and his grumpy interview with Wired about digital issues got some interesting comments, all of which concluded that the veteran music exec had lost his marbles.

In the interview, Morris took aim at Apple’s popular music player and service, blamed college students for the music industry’s troubles and generally seemed disgruntled that this digital stuff would not go away.


He even compared the music industry to hapless and helpless Shmoos (pictured here) from L’il Abner, despite the fact that it has been and remains a rapacious business.

For example, he said of Apple’s Steve Jobs: “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.”

Readers were not pleased (neither was BoomTown!).

Wrote Randy Harrison:

Doug has it backwards.

“If you follow his logic, then the companies that manufactured, say radios, should have tithed off a piece of their sales to the labels too. Sorry.

“And to blame the students for the labels current woes is disingenuous at best. The real problem is that the labels, who saw this coming with plenty of lead time, abdicated their responsibility to manage change and now face the ‘music’ which is an (i)tune they don’t like.

“Get off it Doug! Look at iTunes and any other outlet, digital or not, as a promotional tool. Quit looking back at the good old days and get on with it. After all, the music industry invented direct retail merchandising and promotion. Update the model. It’s in your corporate DNA.

“And remember you are competing against free, so you have to understand value and your customers in new ways. But just think, you have been there before… say when FM usurped AM to be the dominant vehicle to launch music and LPs took over from 45s.”

Wrote Milton Soong:

I love this logic…Consumers have always complained that labels have been screwing over the musicians over the years, their justification for their role was ‘We are valuable, we are a gatekeeper who takes the risk of discovering new talent, make sure there’s access to their material through promotion/marketing, etc.’

“Now that the shoe is on the other foot (iTunes=Gatekeeper to help consumers get to the material), all of the sudden the argument is reversed.

“I hope the labels all go bankrupt, and a new scheme is set up where consumers can directly compensate the artists for their work. All Hail Disintermediation!”

Wrote Michael Long:

Wow. They must really hate Wal-Mart and Amazon too. I mean, can you image the audacity of someone selling billions of your products for you?

“Golden handcuffs, indeed.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald