Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

A Win for Project Playlist: EMI Drops Suit, Signs On

playlist_logo-300x43EMI Music Group, which sued Web music start-up Project Playlist nearly a year ago, has dropped its suit and will start providing its catalog to the start-up, which offers free streaming music.

No terms were disclosed. The settlement, in conjunction with an earlier deal struck with Sony’s Sony Music Entertainment (SNE), means that Project Playlist now has deals with two of the big four music labels. But Warner Music Group (WMG) and Vivendi’s Universal Music Group are still suing the company.

Just as important: Project Playlist hasn’t been reinstated by MySpace and Facebook, both of which booted the service off their social networks last November. Since Project Playlist depended on those sites to drive traffic to its site, it’s hard to see how it can gain much traction unless it can sweet-talk the two other labels into coming aboard.

My expectation was that a settlement was in the works last fall because that’s when former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta joined the company as CEO and investor Bob Pittman poured several millions of dollars into it. Neither of those men, I assumed, was betting on a prolonged lawsuit.

Project Playlist isn’t the only music start-up struggling these days–even those that haven’t been sued by the labels, or have deals with them or even investments from them, are trying to figure out how to survive. Most assumed they’d be able to make money via advertising, but that was a hard sell even before the recession/depression.

Still, better to have a deal than a lawsuit.

Preprepared quotes from both sides:

Van Natta: “It is crucial for us to continue connecting our users with more of their favorite music. This partnership will provide us with a wide-ranging selection of content to satisfy our users’ appetites to share and purchase music. We are excited to now have both EMI and SONY BMG Music catalogs available and we hope to continue to expand and enhance our service.”

Ronn Werre, EMI Music’s President, Music Services worldwide: “Making our music available on a fan favorite like Project Playlist is part of EMI Music’s mission to connect artists and fans and to give fans more ways to discover new artists. Project Playlist is becoming a fan favorite. Our artists also know that word-of-mouth among friends is a powerful part of music discovery.”


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik