doug morris

Could the next keynote speaker at A2IM’s Indie Week or AIM’s Indie-Con be Doug Morris? Don’t laugh: the Sony Music chairman is reportedly leaving the world of the majors at the end of March to launch an independent label called 12 Tone.

Billboard and Variety both reported that Morris has secured funding for the new company, while Hits Daily Double claimed that former Def Jam boss Steve Bartels will be joining the new firm.

So why is Apple in our headline? There was a spate of reports suggesting that 12 Tone will have some form of partnership with Apple, while Hits even claimed that “Morris’ longtime friend and colleague Jimmy Iovine will play a role in the newco when his deal with Apple ends later this year”.

Iovine himself has scotched that suggestion: “There’s no way that’s happening… never going back to the label business”.

Billboard and Variety shot the other claim down too. “Morris has discussed his plan with Apple Music executives recently, though Apple – which makes marketing deals with labels and artists – would not own a stake in the label,” reported Billboard. “A source close to the situation told Variety that those rumours are untrue and that Apple has no equity or investment in Morris’ endeavour,” claimed Variety.

What’s being denied here, though, is an equity stake – which leaves the way open to other forms of partnership: funding for videos and marketing for example.

There’s a wider trend here, fuelled by the industry’s return to growth and the investment sector’s growing sense that streaming is a more easily-predictable future revenue stream, of ’super-indies’ founded by major-label executives going it alone, with big funding from the start.

LA Reid is another example, while former Interscope exec Steve Stoute’s UnitedMasters isn’t quite a label, but is benefitting from similar headwinds.

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