HITS Daily Double


UPDATE: Despite rumors that Jimmy Iovine is joining Doug Morris’ new venture, Iovine tells HITS, “There’s no way that’s happening.” He insists that he’s “never going back to the label business.” When asked about the rumor that he’s packaging his family’s secret gravy recipe, Iovine had no comment.

You didn’t really think he was going to quietly ride off into the sunset, did you?

After guiding each of the three major music groups to unprecedented levels of success and profitability, topped off by his reinvigoration of Sony Music, Doug Morris will follow that unparalleled feat by coming full circle—returning to his entrepreneurial roots by starting a new label. The rumored name of the label venture is 12 Tone.

Steve Bartels, most recently the head of Def Jam, is rumored to be joining Morris, who is bullish on streaming and expects the business to double in five years. He's believed to be in the process of making a distribution deal for physical and international with an undisclosed entity.

It's also rumored that Morris’ longtime friend and colleague Jimmy Iovine will play a role in the newco when his deal with Apple ends later this year.

Morris and Iovine are longtime friends and business allies. It was Morris who backed Iovine and Ted Field in launching Interscope back when he was running Atlantic in the 1988. Subsequently, as UMG chief, Morris allowed Iovine to develop his Beats company while running Interscope.

Morris ceded day-to-day operation of Sony Music to Rob Stringer in April 2017 while still at the top of his game, with strong marketshare at the group level, Columbia #1 in SPS share and #2 in label share, with RCA #3 in the latter category. Retaining the title of Chairman, he continued to offer a resource that has proved indispensable to countless key players: guidance.

Sony Music was a country divided when Morris took charge in 2011. The blood was so bad it had spilled out in the press to a DEFCON 2 level. Wasting no time, Morris galvanized Sony’s warring cultures, and under his leadership the splintered company was transformed into a cohesive machine that consistently competes at the highest level.

A legend at 79, Morris is clearly not ready to come out of the game.