Ex-BMG Exec, Kevin Conroy, to Run AOL Music
AOL and Time Warner: they've got rhythm, they've got music, they've got a massive, vertically-integrated, synergy-drunk media conglomerate -- and now they've got former BMG Entertainment worldwide marketing and new-technology head Kevin Conroy. Conroy, whose resignation was announced last week, will head AOL-Time Warner's newly-created AOL Music division. Conroy has his work cut out for him. As the Wall Street Journal reports, he'll be supervising the integration of Time Warner's content into AOL's music offerings, but he'll also be charged with de-Balkanizing a ''splintered'' AOL music division. The AOL Music Channel, which provides music content to AOL subscribers, is based at the company's headquarters in Virginia, while the bad-boy Spinner/WinAmp programmers at AOL-owned Nullsoft (''This MP3 player is, like punk rock!'') work out of San Francisco and report to a different set of execs at AOL. "Record-company executives," the Journal notes, "have complained that AOL's structure forces them to deal with several different departments to arrange a promotional deal that encompasses all AOL activities." It's up to Conroy to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
On November 1, 2000, Kevin Conroy, then Chief Marketing Officer and President, New Technology, BMG Entertainment, issued a statement regarding the Bertelsmann eCommerce Group and Napster Inc. strategic alliance, that was announced that day. "Peer-to-peer file sharing is one of the many new digital commerce models that BMG has been actively exploring for some time, and we recognize its tremendous potential for artists and music fans alike. Napster's unique community of users represents a tremendous opportunity for BMG to bring our artists closer to their fans as well as to reach new audiences. As a result of this agreement, Napster and BMG will work together in an effort to hopefully gain the support of other companies for a new membership-based business model that properly compensates our artists."
So spoke Kevin Conroy. Apparently, BMG and Napster wasn't big enough for Conroy to play in! Like so many of his bigwig predecessors, Conroy announced his resignation from BMG on January 9, 2001, though his resignation would be official on January 31,2001. While many in the industry were happily making their way to or frolicking in Washington, DC, Conroy laid a bombshell.
"Where will he go? What will he do?" And more likely, "Where's HE going?" Rumors flew but most pundits speculated that he was moving on to the newest, biggest fish of all... AOL/Time Warner. Guess you can't surprise all the people all the time...
Mr. Conroy: "Only AOL/Time Warner has all of the pieces needed to lead this industry to the next level."
Both Webnoize and the Wall Street Journal published yesterday that Conroy had indeed accepted a cool new position at AOL/Time Warner. Conroy will now lead AOL Music, which has already been a growing division for many years; though it has not been a smooth growth.
Ric Dube of Webnoize said, "But even though Conroy said AOL/Time Warner has all of the pieces he needs, the newly approved merger of AOL and Time Warner provides direct contact with only one major label group, Warner
Music. He'll have to win over old employer BMG Entertainment, as well as EMI Recorded Music, Sony Music and Universal. If Conroy is successful, AOL could lead subscription ventures because, as the world's largest Internet service provider, it already maintains a billing relationship with 27 million consumers.
"AOL Music consists of music-related web attractions, its Spinner streaming music service, and Winamp, a software player for digital music files. Conroy will lead development of those ventures and a planned subscription-based digital music service, reporting to AOL Senior Vice President and General Manager Jonathan Sacks."
The Wall Street Journal reported, "AOL has long sought a strategy for its splintered music operations, and the need has become more pressing as its portfolio includes music content from the recent merger with Time Warner.
"Mr. Conroy's major responsibilities are expected to include the job of uniting AOL's separate music divisions and the task of launching a subscription music service. Rivals in subscription-music services include Napster Inc., which is teaming up with German media titan Bertelsmann AG, and Paris-based Vivendi Universal SA's Universal Music Group, which also is testing a service."
Sources at AOL seem positive and exhilarated about the change. Amidst all the other changes which are imminent at the newly merging company, Conroy seems poised for an exciting future. What remains to be seen is integration of all the AOL Music brands and technologies with the Time Warner catalog. Neither BMG/Napster nor AOL/Time Warner – even were they to acquire something like Aimster – can reach the audience and provide the content of Napster as we knew it, or Gnutella or even Emusic, while it stands.
Wait and see.
AOL/Time Warner - www.aoltimewarner.com
Bertelsmann - www.bertelsmann.com
BMG - www.bmg.com
EMI - www.emigroup.com
Emusic - www.emusic.com
Napster - www.napster.com
Nullsoft - www.nullsoft.com
Sony - www.sonymusic.com
Universal - www.umusic.com
Wall Street Journal - www.wsj.com
Webnoize - www.webnoize.com
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