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Since jumping ship to Sony Music back in July, after 15 years at the helm of Universal Music Group, CEO Doug Morris has kept a fairly low public profile, turning down nearly every interview request that’s come his way. Now, after some three months on the job, he let the New York Times in on a few of his plans, revealing an exclusive deal with Dr. Luke in a profile published today (Nov. 8).
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The star producer and Max Martin protégé who’s delivered hits for Katy Perry (“I Kissed a Girl,” “Teenage Dream”), Britney Spears (“Til the World Ends,” “Hold It Against Me”) and Kelly Clarkson (“Since U Been Gone,” “My Life Would Suck Without You”) and discovered Ke$ha, will launch his own Kemosabe Records in January, which was described in the article as “Sony’s fourth label division” (the other three being Columbia, run by chairman Rob Stringer, Epic, headed by chairman and CEO L.A. Reid and RCA which recently announced Peter Edge as its new CEO). He will report to Morris.
Sony also locked down Dr. Luke’s production services exclusively for five years, meaning he’ll no longer be able to work with Perry or other artists outside of the Sony system — no doubt the company’s experience with Rick Rubin, who while serving as co-president of Columbia produced albums by Warner Music acts Linkin Park, Kid Rock and Josh Groban, was a cautionary tale.
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“I plan to sign only artists that I really love and really want to work with,” Dr. Luke (née Lukasz Gottwald) is quoted as saying. “I also believe that songs are the bloodline of a label, so I will still be instrumental in creating and acquiring them.”
But in as much as Morris is looking to the future, he’s also thinking back two decades, to the year when he started bankrolling Interscope Records and backing it’s producer-founder Jimmy Iovine. Times writer Ben Sisario notes that several times during the Morris interview, the executive referred to Dr. Luke as his “new Jimmy.”
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How he’ll fare in negotiating big ticket items, like upcoming bids for Cash Money (home to three of hip-hop’s biggest sellers, Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj) and Big Machine (Taylor Swift), two labels whose deals with Universal will soon expire, has yet to be seen, but it’s certainly shaping up to be an interesting first quarter.
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