EMI Loses Its Other Silicon Valley Wiz

from the that-didn't-take-long dept

Well so much for that. About a year ago, it seemed like perhaps (just perhaps) EMI would be the first of the big major record labels to really learn how to embrace the digital era. First, it talked about leaving the RIAA and IFPI. Then, it talked about the importance of learning from Radiohead's success with the "pay-what-you-want" experiment. Finally, it hired some Silicon Valley stars. First, it hired Google's CIO Doug Merrill, and soon after that brought on Second Life's co-founder Cory Ondrejka. Suddenly, we began to wonder what would happen if a major record label actually had management talent that understood digital technologies.

But... it quickly became clear that this was not to be the case. EMI seemed to view both Merrill and Ondrejka as being in the "digital silo." And, if there's one thing we've learned, if you have a chief digital officer in a media company, you're doing it wrong. Pretending that digital is a "silo" is wrong. Digital impacts every area of your business, and pretending that it's separate suggests you don't have the right strategy in place.

And, of course, the fact that EMI become one of the most aggressive companies suing every potentially innovative startup out there didn't engender much confidence that the company had figured out how to embrace the new online world.

So it wasn't much of a surprise when Doug Merrill left after less than a year. However, the company then promoted Ondrejka. I saw Ondrejka speak at least year's Midem, and he talked up all these pie-in-the-sky ideas that never actually seemed to show up. Last month, when EMI's CEO admitted the company had lost touch with consumers and didn't know how to fix it, you had to wonder what the company had been doing.

And, now comes the news that Cory Ondrejka is also leaving EMI. He lasted just slightly longer than Merrill, sticking around for an entire 14 months, where it doesn't appear that EMI did anything particularly creative on the digital side, but did sue a whole bunch of innovators. Oh yeah, and it launched a blog. As far as I can tell, that's about the most innovative digital thing it's done in a while (yes, there's sarcasm there).

Oh well. It makes you wonder what could have been.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 3:21am

    I would suspect that both of these guys found the door when they were unable to come up with a business strategy that made sense for EMI. When the CEO says they have lost touch but doesn't know how to get them back, you have to wonder what these two "whiz kids" have been doing for he last 14 months or so.

    Sounds like he put forward a bunch of ideas that probably had no income potential (aka, free), that didn't offer EMI any way to profit from them.

     

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  2.  
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    Hoggle, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 3:56am

    What about the new website?

    They did also launch a new website.... www.emi.com. Still in Beta but at least they are doing something many other lables wont and allowing you to search and buy non-EMI artists on their own site... Does that count for something?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 4:09am

    Douglas, not Doug

    Not a "wiz" or "kid", he was a Sr. VP when he hit his 4 years at Google. Smart, but not someone I'd want to work for or with (again).

    The problem at EMI is that their gap is closing. The entire publishing world is based on a "gap" play that time inevitably closes. This gap has, unfortunately, gone on for many generations making it seem as if it's the natural state. But publishing is a gap that technology has rendered largely moot.

    Digital is not a solution for them. It's the reason they're business model is dying. And it's as inevitable as death. They don't need digital media people. They need a business model that is not based on arrangements of 1's and 0's. Because that's over.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 5:55am

    Re:

    And why does it seem you suffer from the same ailment, lack of vision, as so many others? "Free" does not mean you can't make a profit. The explanations and possibilities of this have been beat out numerous times here and elsewhere in very, very simple business terms. People just don't want to listen or just can't understand.

    Those 2 were very talented individuals (regardless if they were pleasant to work with). It seems more likely they were ignored than couldn't think of anything.

     

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  5.  
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    NullOp, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 6:39am

    The Silo

    Many years ago I realized that business people treat computer/tech people like Martians. They are necessary Martians but they are not part of "Us." So, they ask the Martians questions, pretend to understand, then do what they want anyway. If business people ever really incorporate the expertise that's out there the entire business world would do a 180. But I don't expect that to happen as most business people are as shortsighted as Mr. Scrooge himself.

     

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  6.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    The following two lines sum it up nicely ....

    "Suddenly, we began to wonder what would happen if a major record label actually had management talent that understood digital technologies."

    "And, of course, the fact that EMI become one of the most aggressive companies suing every potentially innovative startup out there didn't engender much confidence that the company had figured out how to embrace the new online world."

    EMI's motivation behind the lawsuits falls into place after seeing both the above in one article.

    1) EMI was trying to be the first label to market with a digital solution for music.
    2) They executed in the wrong manner, didnt go far enough, were to slow to market, were/are working on a proprietary system (Closed System), are still in beta, etc.
    3) The lawsuits were an attempt to prevent anyone else from getting there "first".

    Very cool, to understand someones motivation and goals give you an edge in competing with them.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Mike, you should get a job at newspapers, the patent office, and the music industry. You seem to know it all, perhaps you could fail at making things right too?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    Just so you know, Mike is running a consultation company...

     

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  9.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:44am

    Re:

    I always wonder what commenters who accuse Mike of "knowing it all" and such actually *want*? Maybe he should cover the same topics and voice his same opinions but start each post with "Now, if you ask me..."

    Oh right, visiting HIS blog IS "asking him"... Why are you here, then?

     

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  10.  
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    Aaron Martin-Colby (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:00am

    Re: Douglas, not Doug

    I disagree. I think digital can be very good for them. The album publishing is no longer needed, but the record labels did a lot more than that. I always saw the record labels as the first, major arbiter of taste.

    As the internet has proven for us, there is SO MUCH music out there, it's actually rather overwhelming to try and find what you want. For a person incredibly into music, they can check Pitchfork every day, download ten albums per week and buy a bunch more. Listen to music on YouTube, and STILL miss the stuff they might like most.

    That job as arbiter became a bit perverted in the drive to produce ultra-stars like N'Sync, but perhaps without the need to produce one or two multi-plats, then simply moving onto who's new, the record companies will again become the first filter for the consumers in the face of literally thousands of musicians and bands.

     

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  11.  
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    Mr Big Content, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    Digital Is Old Hat

    Those execs left because they represent the old-school “digital” way of doing things. EMI had to get rid of them, as part of its reinvention of itself to cope with new marketing directions. Look for a renewed emphasis on upcoming post-digital technologies and products, such as direct analog recording on special flexible plastic discs read by microscopic diamond transducers. Also there are some interesting applications of electromagnetic fields to special coatings on long strips of tape.

    I’m not at liberty to say more, but stay tuned for details.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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