DOUG MORRIS, 77
CEO, SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 7
By many measures, Doug Morris’ fifth year as CEO of Sony Music may have been his most successful yet — revenue and operating income are both significantly up, for instance, in a difficult climate.
But beyond the spreadsheet, the 50-year-plus industry veteran, who has mentored Apple’s Jimmy Iovine, Atlantic’s Craig Kallman and Republic’s Monte Lipman, among other top executives, can claim ownership of the most transformative, feel-good and, probably, profit-generating storyline to emerge from the music industry in the last decade: XL/Columbia’s Adele, whose 25 shattered first-week sales records and finished 2015 selling 7.4 million copies. “Work is a lot of fun when you have a hit like that,” says Morris, adding that Sony has “re-upped Adele through signing a long-term contract to license her records.” While 25 is still not on Spotify, Apple et al., he is bullish on streaming. “2016 will be a tipping-point year, with everything becoming more transparent,” he says.
Sony also laid claim to the most downloaded song of 2015, Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!,” featuring Bruno Mars, which moved 5.5 million units.
The biggest issue facing the record industry: “How can music subscription services grow when there is still so much free music available? Spotify has millions of people going to their free tier. YouTube is probably an even worse offender.”