SAN FRANCISCO -- The big question of the day -- wither Michael Arrington? - was answered within the first few minutes of TechCrunch Disrupt, which kicked off Monday morning. Arrington announced that he will be "moving on" from the site he started to run his venture fund, and will be replaced by Erick Schonfeld. It was a kinder, gentler Arrington than the feisty blogger who had been publicly sparring with AOL and Arianna Huffington over the last two days, and it put the controversy to rest.
With that announcement out of the way, the rest of the conference was free to focus on the topics at hand. There were a few key music stories on day one, including a session with Pandora CTO Tom Conrad and a presentation by Tonara, which aims to disrupt the sheet music industry by digitizing sheet music and making the app the default way to consume it (as opposed to buying physical sheet music).
Conrad shared the stage with Rovio's Andrew Stalbow for a "fireside chat" - more relaxed than a formal presentation -- , and the conversation tilted towards discussing the future of Angry Birds, although Conrad did manage to get a number of arguable more relevant points in. He said the company was "doing great" after its IPO, and currently employed about 400 people. He added that more people listen to Pandora in the car (50%) than at home (30%) and that they were seeking to create partnerships with car companies. He also talked about his experience switching from Apple to Android and how engaging with that demographic presented a new set of opportunities for Pandora.
Finally, he said that Pandora is rolling out an HTML5 version of the service, and that Facebook's entry in to the music space doesn't faze him at all.
Later in the afternoon, TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield Finalist Tonara took to the stage to present its iPad app, which displays sheet music, listens to the notes being played, and turns the page automatically. Although some judges were skeptical, the presenters pointed out that there are hundreds of thousands of musicians, from kids learning to play the piano up to professional composers, who would be a potential market.