Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Ex-Yahoo Exec: Here’s How to Save the Music Business

“There is nothing wrong with the music business. There’s something wrong with the CD business.” Talk to a music industry optimist–yes, there still are some–for any amount of time, and you’ll inevitably hear that line.

To spell that argument out: Just because people aren’t paying $10 to $17 for a CD anymore doesn’t mean that people aren’t interested in music, and in some cases willing to pay for it.

Even if that’s true, it won’t do very much for the people who run big music companies like Vivendi’s (VIV) Universal Music and Warner Music Group (WMG), who are still stuck selling CDs and will be for years to come.

But nimble competitors think they can carve out a niche for themselves by working outside the labels and selling small batches of music-related stuff, if not CDs. That’s the premise of Topspin Media, a start-up headed by Ian Rogers, an entrepreneur who briefly ran the music unit of Yahoo (YHOO). Topspin sells a suite of tech tools designed to help artists (and/or their business people) who want to sell their product and manage their careers on their own.

The company is just creeping out of stealth mode, so it’s too early to tell whether Topspin’s prospects are any more or less promising than the future of the music business. But Rogers is a persuasive guy, so it’s best to just step aside and let him make his own pitch.

Here’s a slide from a recent presentation Rogers gave at a music industry event in Seattle that sums up his “people like music” argument. (Click on the image to make it bigger.) His larger case, which, of course, includes a role for Topspin, can be found here. Or if you just like slides, here.

[Image Credit: Ian Rogers]

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald