Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Meet the Man Behind Beyond Oblivion, the Latest High Stakes Digital Music Bet

Very few people want to spend money on music anymore. But they are happy to buy all kinds of gadgets.

So what if you sold music by bundling it with consumer electronics–pay up front for the phone or tablet or whatever, and get all the music you want for free?

That’s what Nokia did a couple years ago, with its “Comes With Music” plan. And it didn’t work at all.

But that isn’t stopping start-up Beyond Oblivion from trying the same strategy. And it has been able to convince some blue-chip investors, including Allen & Co. and News Corp. (which also owns this Web site), to pony up close to $90 million to back the idea.

The New York-based company’s funding success has surprised a lot of digital music pros that I talk to, who are more than skeptical that this thing will work. But it has at least one thing going for it: The big music labels are okay with the basic concept, which has them getting advances on each device sold and then additional payments based on the amount their music gets played.

CEO Adam Kidron, a former music producer and Web 1.0 entrepreneur with a colorful history, says he’ll be able to show off his service via a beta test this summer. He wants to launch in the fall, starting with some Asian countries, followed by Europe and the U.S.

If he pulls it off, he’ll be a year past his initial target date, and the digital music landscape could be pretty interesting by that point. There’s a good chance that Spotify’s freemium streaming service will have finally landed in the U.S. by then. Same for Google’s locker-based music service, as well as a less ambitious plan from Apple’s iTunes.

But I’ll let Kidron make the case for his plan, in his own words. Here’s a chat I conducted with him in his midtown Manhattan offices yesterday:


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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