In 2008, I was an intern for a wonderful woman by the name of Elise Wright. She was the SVP of Urban Music at Universal Republic. At the time, Doug Morris was the CEO at Universal Music Group. It just so happened that his office was in the same building that I interned in on 1755 Broadway in midtown Manhattan. One afternoon, Monte Lipman’s assistant asked me if I could bring lunch downstairs to Doug Morris’ office. As soon as I was gifted with the task of doing so, I knew that I had to handle this particular package with care. As ambitious as I am, I was delighted to make the delivery. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet Doug in person. Had we met, it may have led to a very interesting chain of events.
Flash forward 7 years. Doug Morris is now the CEO of Sony Music Entertainment. Doug was recently invited to speak at Midem in Cannes, France. In his keynote speech entitled “Visionary Talk,” Doug shares a plethora of insight that he has gained throughout his 50+ years of experience in the music industry. Throughout the interview, he praises his fellow industry icons and pioneers. These names include, Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Berry Gordy, Jimmy Iovine, Suge Knight, L.A. Reid, and Steve Jobs.
Doug on The Impact of Urban Music
A few interesting stories that Doug shares includes his first encounter with rap music. The first group that he signed was 2 Live Crew. Shortly after, Jimmy Iovine was responsible for introducing Doug to Suge Knight. This meeting would eventually lead to Interscope signing Death Row Records which Doug mentions as an “Incredible moment.” Doug also goes on to mention that his strategy at Universal was to fill it with urban music. “I don’t think a record company can really be successful without urban music” says Doug. “We had Death Row, Def Jam, and Cash Money. Just with those three companies, we probably had 40-45% of all the urban music in America.”
Doug on The Importance of A&R + Content
When asked about the importance of content and distribution, Doug mentions, “If you don’t have a hit you have nothing. We’re all slaves to the brilliant people who are in touch with the culture and can spot an artist. The people who can spot a record that’s going to be important, that’s where we invest our money, in these people.” Although the people and titles may vary, the process of identifying and developing talent at an early stage is what we call A&R. To this day, I consider A&R to be at the pinnacle of necessity in regards to the future expansion and growth of our entertainment and music industries.
Words of Wisdom From Doug Morris
On Leadership – Doug has a philosophy that it’s important to be nice and treat people with respect. It’s important to make the people that work for you feel great. It’s important to make them know that you appreciate what they do. When Doug was coming up, people would degrade others and make them feel bad. Doug runs his companies based on mutual respect and loyalty. This is the culture that he believes in.
On Identifying Your Talent – Find what you’re good at. Some people are good as recording engineers. Some people are good at publishing. Some people are able to identify great artists. You have to look at what you think your strength is. Don’t listen to the naysayers. It’s your life, live it. Don’t be afraid of anything. When you’re doing something that you love, it’s fun. When something is fun, you actually get good at it. Do what’s fun. Do what you love going to work for.
(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Creative Consultant, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies such as Cornerstone Agency, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and consumers. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe.