Warner Music Group will acquire the assets of 12Tone Music, the label founded by industry veteran Doug Morris after he stepped down as CEO of Sony Music, the companies announced Tuesday (July 20).
Founded in 2018 and most recently distributed by Warner’s independent label and artists services arm ADA, 12Tone’s catalog and roster include artists such as Aftermath’s four-time Grammy winner Anderson .Paak, country legend Dolly Parton, the 88 Rising collective (featuring global superstar Joji among their roster), Centricity’s Christian music star Lauren Daigle’s “Look Up Child,” electronic producer/ artist Illenium, and others. According to the announcement, under this arrangement, Morris will continue to be actively engaged in the day-to-day activities of 12Tone Music and its artists. The deal is expected to close towards the end of July.
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Morris, 82, is the only executive to have been CEO of all three major label groups: Warner Music in the 1990s, Universal in the ’90s and ’00s, and Sony from 2011 until 2018. He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music and the President’s Merit Award from what is now the Recording Academy, among other honors. He began his career as a songwriter for music publisher Robert Mellin, Inc., writing the Chiffons’ 1966 hit “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” and producing records including Brownsville Station’s early 1970s hit “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” Later, he launched his own label, Big Tree Records, which was distributed and eventually acquired by Atlantic Records in 1978. This brought him into the Warner Music family, initially as president of Atco Records. In 1980 he was named president of Atlantic Records, eventually rising to co-chairman and co-CEO, and head of Warner Music Group in 1994. However, the following year, he left the company after an ugly corporate battle and was almost immediately named CEO of Universal Music Group, bringing several former colleagues from Warner with him — not least Interscope Records. 12Tone’s staff includes former Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels, who joined the label shortly after it was formed.
Max Lousada, CEO, Recorded Music, Warner Music Group said: “12Tone is home to some of today’s most compelling artists and innovative label partners, encompassing emerging and established talent that crosses genres and generations. We’re very pleased that Doug has chosen Warner as the team to continue nurturing the amazing artists that 12Tone has signed and developed over the past three years.”
Doug Morris said: “After leading all three major music companies, I loved returning to my indie roots by starting 12Tone. I want to thank Steve Bartels and the 12Tone team for being such a big part of the picture. This three-year run has been a lot of fun. I look forward to remaining fully engaged with the WMG team, who are outstanding professionals. A special thanks to Max – I know the music couldn’t be in better hands.”
Multi-Grammy Award winning Anderson .Paak’s most recent Aftermath/12Tone album, “Ventura,” became his first top five album on the Billboard 200. Most recently, he partnered with Atlantic’s Bruno Mars to create their new joint project, Silk Sonic. Illenium’s first album for the label, “Fallen Embers,” was released last week. Daigle won a Grammy for her third studio album, “Look Up Child,” and Parton’s 2020 album “A Holly Dolly Christmas,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and Top Holiday Albums charts.
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