Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Merrill clinched: Google man leaps to EMI

EMI's Terra Firma bosses might be showing a lack of care with its music and A&R staff, but their hirings for the technology side at least shows a determination to try and understand the web. A bit. Douglas Merrill has been poached from Google to take the responsibility for the company's digital strategy, encompassing:

“leadership responsibility for all of the company’s digital strategy, innovation, business development, supply chain and global technology activities.”

Given that their CD sales are disappearing, that's going to be pretty much all of what EMI does in five years. If they asked him to put a damp cloth round the washrooms every couple of days, he'd be the only member of staff they need.

Talking to PaidContent, Merrill was clearly a man who isn't quite in a position to talk about specifics:
I think the industry as a whole has got some really interesting experiments in what the future world is. I think EMI has done some really terrific things like their recent move to DRM-free. But, as for me, I always start with principles. The first principle is simple: Fans want to experience art and artists want to create. What the roles of the music labels are in connecting artists, helping artists create, to fans, helping fans experience, I think it’s TBD. ... I think there are some interesting experiments but what I want to do at EMI is a whole bunch more experiments. We don’t yet know what the real business model is going to be. We have to do more experiments, try more things to see what works. Artists want to create and they want to sell, fans want to experience those things. What’s the role of the labels? I don’t know.”

Considering EMI must have offered a lot to him to tempt him away from Google and his "ideal" CIO role, the good people at Terra Firma might be a little concerned to hear his plan is, uh, you know, to try stuff. It's the sort of approach that works well in tech companies; it might go down less well in a 100 year-old business that has been fading for the last few years. The Messiah turning up and asking for a year or two to fiddle with test tubes and bunsen burners might prove a disappointment for those who are left there.


Anonymous said...

el bueno rock n roll:

Anonymous said...

Bear in mind that google is an ad agency first and a tech company second. I guess what he's bringing them is the option of possibly not dying. The tech itself is kind of immaterial as it needs to be ubiquitous (and hence a commodity) to be useful. What they needed (and got) is someone who understands it well enough to see how it can mesh with the business opportunities.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Anon - good point, although Google is an ad agency because it created a technological solution and then applied it to advertising, rather than because it sold advertising for years and then decided to try and do it online.

Anonymous said...

The head of digital strategy at EMI has unequivocally said that the business model they have been using for the last 100 years is outmoded and that something new is needed to replace it, even if no-one knows at the moment what that something is. That is a massive, welcome, and overdue change in attitude.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...


Yes, it is a welcome change - and, of course, precisely what he was brought in to say. Indeed, his very appointment said that.

What remains to be seen is if he can persuade the rest of the company of that, and in time.

Old business saying: That the Head Of Carpets says it's time for new carpets doesn't mean that new carpets will get laid.

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