Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Two Yahoo Music Veterans Resurface with DashBox, a Service You’ll Never Use (Unless You’re a Music Pro)

dashboxDigital music entrepreneurs Dave Goldberg and Bob Roback, who built up Launch Media in the 1990s and ran Yahoo’s music group for much of this decade, are trying their hands at tunes again.

This time, though, they’re not trying to convince consumers to pay for music or asking advertisers to subsidize it. Instead, they’re trying to act as a middleman between labels and publishers who own music and advertisers, Hollywood and other folks who want to use the tunes for commercial purposes.

Via Twain Media, their personal investment company, Goldberg and Roback have purchased a smallish start-up called mSoft and renamed it Dashbox, which they describe as a “subscription service that aggregates and manages all of your production music and sound effects.” The idea is to link up people who need to buy music for commercial reasons with rights holders, who are often scattered and hard to track down.

Roback will take the CEO spot at the renamed company; Goldberg, who has a day job running SurveyMonkey, will be chairman. The company hasn’t disclosed the terms of its mSoft purchase, but people familiar with the transaction tell me they bought the company for under $10 million.

Roback and Goldberg founded Launch Media in 1994, and sold it to Yahoo (YHOO) in 2001; the two stayed on to run Yahoo Music until 2007. Earlier this year, Goldberg invested in and took over SurveyMonkey, an online survey coordinator.

Goldberg is one of many former digital music executives I’ve talked to who thinks the music business is fundamentally broken, so at first blush it’s a tiny bit surprising to see him back in it again.

But he and Roback are essentially investing in an entirely different industry–it’s a business-to-business market that really hasn’t been affected much by the digital revolution. If you want to use a song in your TV show, you can’t steal it via BitTorrent or stream it for free on Spotify.

Nor has the digital revolution affected the industry’s infrastructure, which remains pretty ancient. Music supervisors for TV shows and movies still end up resorting to faxes and phone calls to track down tunes they’d like to use.

So there are some obvious opportunities for someone who can amass scale and decrease friction here. It may not be as sexy as providing consumers with all the free music they want, but it may end up being more profitable.


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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