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Shannon Livewell

Blake Morgan respects the music

“Sometimes what looks a lot like ‘inspiration,’ later is really just ‘desperation’ or ‘necessity’ at the time,” said Blake Morgan when I inquired about his inspiration to start up his own global music company.

Blake Morgan (Photo obtained via Facebook)
Blake Morgan (Photo obtained via Facebook)

Morgan is a musician, singer-songwriter, producer, and owner of the record label, ECR music group. “I had to make a difficult decision to free myself from my long-term major-label record deal, with Phil Ramone and his N2K/Sony label. I thought I was going to be with that label my whole career, but when it became clear to me that that label was going to do more harm to my career in the end than help it, I had to get out,” he continued. “Phil and I remained friends right up until the end of his life, and it turned out to be the right decision. Emotionally, I was out of options––I couldn’t do what I’d done before with another major label deal––so it was really necessity more than anything.”

As a musician, I was shocked by Morgan’s continuation on the subject. “I swore that the first rule of the label would be that all the artists would own their own master recordings 100 percent. And they always have. Since I launched the label on my laptop all those years ago, we’ve grown and flourished to become a global music company, ECR Music Group, distributed in 110 countries around the world.”

Allowing an artist to own their own master recordings 100 percent is unheard of and something that I believe has set Morgan apart from every other music company and label in the world. I felt it had to be difficult for an artist to release an album under their own label for the first time when they are used to so routinely releasing music under a label they basically “work for.” Therefore, I inquired about Diamonds in the Dark, an album that was released in 2013 under ECR Music Group.

“For me, it was the fulfillment of a dream; that I could make the record of my dreams, for the label of my dreams. I guess all I had to do was build that label myself, in the end!” Morgan said. And being the selfless man that his background story proves him to be, he finished by saying, “I feel this way about each and every one of our records. We have two new records coming out very soon, by Melissa Giges and Janita, and I’ve worked on each of them for almost two years. Each! So these albums really mean a lot to us, every one of them.”

When I asked Morgan about his largest musical and personal influence he said, “There’s no artist or band that’s meant more to me musically or personally than The Beatles, ever since I was a kid.”

And here it is! The best piece of advice I think I have ever included in any of my articles, especially if you are a music major here at the University of New Haven desperately searching for a “practical” career in the industry that you love.

“The world is going to tell you that the profession you want to pursue, being an artist, isn’t ‘practical.’ It isn’t realistic or maybe even worthwhile. I hope you don’t listen to those voices, and instead, listen to your own. I hope you go for it, wholeheartedly,” said Morgan, “Being a musician is just as challenging and rewarding as any other profession. I believe that artists should be paid for their work the same as other professions. I wrote an article about this very phenomenon for the Huffington Post last December, following an experience I had in returning to my own high-school for Career Day.”

An inspirational response like this coming from such a respectable music mogul in the industry was enlightening for me to say the least, and I can only hope that many of you take the same amazing outlook on the career you have a passion for from this man’s experienced opinion.

Morgan is currently running his I Respect Music campaign, aiming to get music recognized as a real profession rather than the hobby our world still unfortunately sees it as. “Congress hasn’t passed that bill yet and in fact, Pandora has (at least for the moment) abandoned their own signature legislation that would lessen artists’ royalties. This is, in my opinion, 100 percent because artists and musicians rose up and stood together to say, ‘enough is enough.’ I truly think the folks at Pandora were not expecting to be called out on their ‘smoke blowing,’ and didn’t expect musicians to be as vocal and courageous as they have been,” Morgan explained to defend his campaign.

“My email exchange with Mr. Westergren [Pandora’s founder] was the moment when I personally decided that enough was enough, and I saw my chance to speak up about what Pandora was trying to do. I’m glad I did it. Check out www.IRespectMusic.org. Add your name to our historic petition to Congress. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see the amazing photos people have been posting and Tweeting by the thousands, each holding up a sign that has the #IRespectMusic hashtag. So add your own!” Morgan suggests for students who believe it is right for artists to get paid for Internet radio play the same as any other medium.

With such an amazingly busy schedule, it is hard to figure out what keeps Morgan so motivated. But is there really a difference between motivation and lack of alternatives? “Honestly, what’s the alternative? Give up? Give out? Give in? These are not options. And not every step is an amazing stride by the way; it’s just the next step,” he explained. “I find that the harder I work, the better I get at each of these steps, and before I know it, I’m closer to where I want to get to.”

So there you have it. Sometimes doing the “right thing,” because you’re following your gut is the hardest thing, and your motivation really comes from not wanting to fail more than it does from wanting to succeed.

“Well, I wonder if this actually might be it right now: this period of my life where I get the chance to talk to a student just like you about these things,” Morgan flattered me by stating when I asked him to state an event that really made him feel like he belonged in the crazy world of the music industry. “These last months trying to do my small part in fighting this fight alongside artists and musicians has been extraordinary, and inspiring. I think I’ve connected now with a different term, ‘music profession,’ and become deeply willing to fight for that.”

I will leave you with the most inspiring and thought provoking response, one that, especially if you are a music student here at UNH looking to pursue a career and wondering where to start, will inspire you for sure.

When I asked Morgan if he had any advice for those wanting to get involved in the entertainment industry he said, “Don’t go into the entertainment world. Go into the music world, or the art world, or the painting world, the writing world, the sculpting world, the comedy world, or the choreography world. The only person I’d recommend you try to ‘entertain’ is yourself.”