Monday, June 09, 2008

EMI hires executive who, erm, doesn't buy music

It might be a wise move - hiring someone to run the digital strategy at a major label who doesn't actually buy new music. Or hears much of it. Kind of like Bernard Matthews hiring a vegetarian.

EMI has taken on Cory Ondrejka. Ondrejka was a co-founder of Second Life, which, if memory serves, was bit like Animal Crossing only one where Tom Nook stole all your money, and the museum was bought out by American Apparel to sell you pictures of clothes.

So, what's his explanation for having no apparent interest in new music? And, judging by his blog, it's no interest at all:

I neither buy nor hear much new music. Since 2000, I’ve only purchased 5 albums. Three by Rush (enough of my friends are Rush fans, so somebody reminds me when they release a new album), Pearl Jam’s "Pearl Jam" (I read a Rolling Stone review in an airport), and REM’s Accelerate (best Terry Gross interview on "Fresh Air" in months.)

Let's try not to picture those dinner parties where three-quarters of the guests are the sort of big Rush fan who would remind you to buy their albums.

So, the closest thing he's come to new music in nearly a decade is Pearl Jam. How come?

Well, obviously, he's as square as a cube.

No,no, he stresses: It's just he never comes across music in the right context:
Why not? I hear lots of new music I like – anything from the first couple seasons of Alias would work – but I never hear new music in the right context to buy it.

The first couple of seasons of Alias would be from 2001 and 2002, then, so Cory's idea of "new" harks back to a time when S Club 7 were number One.

You'll notice that having started out by saying he "neither buy[s] nor hear[s]" new music, and then claims that he does.

But what does he mean "not in the right context to buy it"?

When I listen to radio, I’m listening to NPR to catch up on the news. The good local music stores are all gone. When I’m working, I want to hear music I like, so I have a very low threshold for experimentation. Coworker’s iTunes shares provide a hint at something new, but DRM and the hassles of being on the wrong computer – working on a desktop when my music is on my phone and laptop – keep me from jumping onto the iTunes Music Store to make a purchase.

"The good local music stores are all gone" sobs a man who's bought five records so far this century. How would he even know?

And - for a man who created a world where we were supposedly all going to have avatars with enormous penises (sold separately) allowing us to live in polygon-mapped housing to find opening iTunes on his laptop and typing in a band name to be too much for him seems surprising. God alone knows how his Rush-loving friends manage to get him to buy the albums - presumably they have to handcuff and blindfold him and drive him to a Wal-Mart store?

Let's just pause a while: EMI have hired a man whose love of music is so weak, he really can't be arsed to track down a tune he might have heard a few hours earlier. A man who never wanders into the CD section of a store and get hit by the "ooh! I wonder if they've got anything by that band who were on Jimmy Kimmel the other night" bug. A man who has, apparently, never scribbled the name of a song down on a napkin and plugged it into Amazon the next day.

That's what we're all thinking. Cory, though, thinks we'd be thinking something else:
Note that none of this lack of purchasing is because I’m just torrenting stuff.

Good god, man, if you have trouble coping with iTunes being on a different computer to the one you're working on, it's no wonder you're not torrenting. To be honest, it's a surprise you can cope with blogging.
The problem is that connecting discovery of new music to the ability to own the music is completely jacked. Even when I knew I wanted something – Accelerate – I had the problem that I was traveling with my MacBook Air, so buying a CD was useless. I had never setup the iTMS on that computer and you would be amazed at how hard Apple has made that process. It’s like they don’t want to sell me music. Then, once I did remember all the passwords I needed, I couldn’t figure out whether the iTunes download was DRM free. So I went to Amazon, which was slightly easier and made it clear the download wasn’t broken via DRM.

"I couldn't figure out whether the iTunes download was DRM free." And you've been put in charge of digital strategy at EMI? You don't know the slightly more expensive downloads are the DRM free ones?

And, true, it's been a few years since I set up my iTunes account, but I don't recall it being especially tortuous.

Let's see...

Sign in...
new account...
set up password, set up reminder question...
then some credit card information - effectively, card type, number and billing address - and then that's more or less it.

Perhaps he's expecting Apple to somehow magically guess your credit card number?
It is incredibly frustrating. I want to be able to find new music. When I find new music, I’m happy to pay the artists for it. Once I own music, I want to be able to listen to it wherever I am. How hard can this be?

It's not hard at all - providing, of course, the files you've been sold are DRM free - your new employer is responsible for a lot of the DRM in the first place. Oh, and it's nice to see you believe that paying for music means you "own" it - you might find your new bosses are trying to make us view that as a somewhat antwacky attitude.

I'm all for making music easier to buy, easier to move about with, easier for us to take with us when we've paid it, and it's great that Cory wants that too. But his blog suggests a man who hasn't really thought much about music and buying and selling it because he's, frankly, not that bothered. Back in 2000, who would have thought "I'm not going to buy that song because I have a PC without a disc drive?" The idea might be to try and sell music to other people like him, people who won't buy music unless it's there with a single, press-red, buy-now button in front of their faces. But that sort of purchaser won't build careers; you need the customers who treat music as a passion to underpin what you do. And you can only sell to people with a passion if you feel that passion. If you don't care enough about music to seek it out in the era when tracking down a song has become so piss-easy, my cat has had to have his access to iTunes blocked in case he spends his entire allowance for the month online, you don't really have any feel for the product.

I presume Cory must have watched Alias as it broadcast - after all, buying a DVD box set would have been too tortuous, right?