Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Videos, Consultants, Fake Steve Jobs. How Beyond Oblivion Burned $32 Million Without Paying for a Single Song.

It’s easy to build a failed music service. Building a failed music service that blows through $32 million without ever opening its doors? That takes some work.

And that’s what Beyond Oblivion pulled off. The would-be service closed down at the end of last year, before it ever started up.

My hunch is that the company was doomed from the get-go, but’s Eliot Van Buskirk diligently digs in behind the scenes to find out exactly what happened, and where the money went. It’s a great, gruesome read.

What’s particularly notable about Beyond Oblivion’s collapse is that you can’t accuse the big music labels of killing it with extortionate fees. They planned to get extortionate fees, and Beyond Oblivion’s strategy apparently involved complying — the company had planned to hand over $150 million in upfront licensing payments.

But they never got a chance. Instead, the money went into to all sorts of other stuff that didn’t involve delivering music to consumers. Like expensive marketing consultants. And a promotional video, featuring a vocal-fried narrator, that you can see at the bottom of this post.

Oh. And there was also a fake Steve Jobs:

At CES 2011, [CEO Adam Kidron] already hired a Steve Jobs impersonator to interrupt business meetings between himself and would-be partners “as a joke.” The Steve Jobs look-alike also apparently “roamed the show floor to fool attendees, while an employee filmed the whole thing” — a film that may have been meant for promotional purposes somehow, but which was only seen by employees.

At least Beyond Oblivion’s investors (who include News Corp., which also owns this Web site), didn’t lose any money on this year’s CES show.

Kidron planned to hire models to walk the CES show floor with the words “wanna boinc” on their panties and T-shirts, in the case of the females, or on their chests in the case of Speedo-wearing males. All of the models would have offered demonstrations to CES attendees, giving them a button with the words “I boinced at CES” printed on them. The buttons would also have functioned as the invitation to a private party at a Las Vegas strip club. These plans were scrapped in November as the company unraveled.

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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