Poor Jessica Vascellaro. The Wall Street Journal reporter will never be able to live down the video she and several Webhead friends recorded on a Cyprus vacation. The song-and-dance number was controversial as a sign of bubble-era excess — and as an indication that Vascellaro might be rather too close to the companies she covers. Last night, as Vascellaro partied at the MySpace Music party, the DJ put on "Don't Stop Believing" — the same Journey song which provided the soundtrack to their seaside frolics. Kara Swisher has video from the party:Click to view
When the highlight of the evening is Twitter CEO Ev Williams meeting faded hip-hop star MC Hammer, you know the night was a waste. Indie-music consultant Corey Denis reports that the event "had ten actual music industry people there, tops." MySpace didn't have much to celebrate, either: It has yet to appoint a figurehead CEO to its MySpace Music faux joint venture. The only thing confirmed about Courtney Holt, the MTV executive widely rumored to be taking the job, is his gender. (Photo by Brian Solis/Bub.blicio.us)
I feel sorry for Courtney Holt. Partly because the MTV executive is rumored to be taking a terrible job running MySpace Music, a feature of the social network masquerading as a separate company. But mostly because of his name. In a previous article, I was enough of a bonehead to refer to Holt as "she." Trying to do my part to promote the role of women in the tech industry, okay?
Why is it that Courtney Holt, the MTV executive reportedly offered a job running MySpace Music, has yet to take the CEO position there? Because, like the other candidates, he figured out that running a feature of a website is not a real job. v10_medium" alt="Another MySpace Music CEO candidate stalls on the job" title="Another MySpace Music CEO candidate stalls on the job" />
Why can't News Corp. find anyone to run MySpace Music, the spinoff from its social network which is part-owned by major labels? No one seems able to state the obvious: MySpace Music is a feature, not a company. The outside investment it garners is just an elaborate way of cutting in the labels on MySpace's music-related profits. No wonder former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta turned down the job; TechCrunch reports that he cleverly tried to get MySpace to buy Project Playlist, a music startup he'd invested in, as part of the deal. Van Natta picked the right test: If MySpace had been willing to fold Project Playlist into MySpace Music, it would have proven that the music venture really had some independence. Any other CEO candidate should ask the same questions Van Natta raised with his quid-pro-quo deal.
Remind us: Were we supposed to be impressed that MySpace's minor update to its music feature, dressed up as a joint venture with the record labels, has streamed 1 billion tunes in "a few days"? Before the launch of MySpace Music, MySpace was already streaming 5 billion songs a month, largely thanks to the blaring, automatically played music on most of its users' profiles. How many days are "a few"? In the ordinary course of business, MySpace would play 1 billion songs anyway — whether anyone liked it or not. You'd have to be sleeping with a MySpace flack to think this was a big story.
If you didn't believe our report that TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington is in bed with MySpace's top flack, Dani Dudeck, read the obsessive startup blogger's latest story on MySpace Music, which claims that MySpace has "streamed" 1 billion songs. Considering that most MySpace profiles are set to start playing a song, whether you like it or not, as soon as you visit them, that's not that impressive. Arrington leads his story by comparing MySpace streams to iTunes sales, and then acknowledges it's not a "fair comparison." His readers, in the comments, went much further, citing our report and questioning whether the affair with Dudeck clouded Arrington's judgment. Those comments have been — what's the word? — unpublished.
Most MySpace Music customers won't go searching for the obscure stuff. The big money is in pop hits. The industry's top 10 singles are all available to preview on MySpace Music — and they're all on Amazon.com's MP3 store as well. But that doesn't mean it's one-click easy to buy the music via MySpace. Trying to purchase downloads of 6 of the 10 directly from MySpace's new music widget failed. And those that worked required plenty of clicks and drop-down menus. [Idolator]
MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe wanted a one-stop music shop that would have included event ticket and merchandise purchases along with streaming audio and paid downloads. What he got were agreements from the four major labels for the streaming audio and a deal with Amazon to sell digital downloads. Which is something. Also, there's handful of big-name sponsors like McDonald's and Toyota, and MySpace certainly still has a huge user base of music lovers. Whether or not this is "the one" for the record industry remains to be seen. How's the service?Of course, it's highly-compressed digital audio, and therefore pretty crappy. But I have to admit, the offerings go well beyond the pop selected for the Jonas Brothers' playlist — while I'm sure the cashiers at Amoeba Records might still sneer at the selection's depth, my searches for everything from Os Mutantes to Gas Huffer, Blind Willie McTell to Mongo Santamaria came up with multiple tracks to choose from. Eventually. The site is currently running incredibly slow, which may be a good sign of interest or a critical fumble of the launch. Users frustrated in the process of creating playlists might just go back to Last.fm, Imeem, iTunes or any of a number of other places to preview and purchase tracks.
Embarrassingly, MySpace unveiled its plans for MySpace Music without a CEO in place. The store's set to open later this month, but who will mind it? The Los Angeles Times suggests the shortlist is down to two names: Owen Van Natta, Facebook's former COO (left), and Andy Schuon, a longtime Universal Music executive (right). TechCrunch says Van Natta is a "top contender." Insiders say MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe is wooing him even more aggressively than Paris Hilton.Van Natta is well qualified, and the job involves partnerships and business development, two areas where he's especially skilled. And he's long said he wants a CEO job at a consumer Internet company, but I'm skeptical he'll take the gig. He strikes me as too independent to answer to meddling MySpacers and hidebound music-industry executives. He also likes to be involved in the product, and it sounds like MySpace Music is mostly developed already. Schuon seems a more likely candidate. His main qualification: He previously ran Pressplay, an online music-industry joint venture. That's also the main strike against him, since Pressplay was a huge flop.
MySpace Music, a joint venture between the News Corp. social network and music labels Universal, Sony and Warner,finally launches next week, says Fortune, though it still won't have a CEO. MySpace users will be able to listen to and organize playlists full of songs from all three music labels for free. (EMI is the lone holdout, which means no coldplay.) Playlists will include affiliate links to Amazon.com's MP3 store. MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe says ad revenues and song kickbacks are going to save the music industry, replacing lost CD sales.Imeem CEO Dalton Caldwell, whose company already offers a similar product,
MySpace Music, the joint venture between the social network and three big record-label groups, is struggling to find a CEO, according to The Deal. There's a long list of prospects who have turned the News Corp.-owned social network down: Ian Rogers, the former head of Yahoo Music; Jim Bankoff, formerly of AOL; Eric Garland, the highly quotable head of file-sharing research firm BigChampagne; and former Launch CEO Dave Goldberg, who now works at Benchmark Capital as an entrepreneur-in-residence and is married to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, which makes the L.A. job geographically undesirable. But what's most amusing about MySpace's failed CEO search is the excuse MySpace is now giving for putting off a hire: The team is so close to delivering a product that hiring a boss now would just screw things up. Makes sense — but it raises the question, why hire a CEO at all?
Shawn "Jay Z" Carter signing with LiveNation demonstrates that one of the most entrepreneurial artists of our generation has decided that the business of recording music is advertising. The No. 1 digital music retailer, iTunes, has understood this for some time — Apple sells iPods, and iTunes is a service to make it relatively cheap and easy to fill those iPods. Carter will be happy to make a little chump change from digital sales, but the MC knows the real money is in branded events and merchandise. What the labels call "piracy" is actually free distribution of promotional material, and such a model is not without precedent.