Universal Music Group veteran Jeff Bronikowski will take over as the new head of Yahoo Music Billboard has learned, replacing Michael Speigelman, who is moving to a different role within the company.

Bronikowski worked at Universal for 11 years, most recently as senior VP of global digital initiatives, before leaving last January. He will report to Yahoo VP of entertainment Sibyl Goldman and will be based in New York. He is scheduled to start late next week.

Speigelman, who led the Yahoo Music division since former GM Ian Rogers left for the CEO role at Topspin in early 2008, will now head up all product development for the entertainment group, including TV, movies, music and games.

In this exclusive Q&A, Bronikowski shares his thoughts about the digital music market, Yahoo's status, and record label strategies in the days before he takes on his new role.

What was behind the decision to join Yahoo Music?
I spent 11 years in the music business at UMG, and after doing some consulting over the last year found I really missed being in the music space. I feel like Yahoo, while certainly it has declined a bit from its prominence as the No. 1 music destination, I think there are tremendous assets there and Yahoo is committed to making it a premier music destination again. Anytime there's a maturing market, as there is in the digital music space, you're going to see more and more fragmentation. I think that's what's happened here. But given the assets Yahoo has in terms of traffic, advertising sales, scaleable product development resources, I was excited about the opportunity.

What are your thoughts about the overall state of digital music? What's working, what's not, and what's missing?
It depends on the perspective. If you think about what's popular, there are three things. One is watching videos. Listening to Internet radio continues to grow. And downloading from iTunes. And then other activities that don't really help anybody include P2P. And I guess I'll add ad-supported streaming, which has been searching for a business model but people have certainly done that en masse as well. Those are what's popular from a consumer perspective, so it's a matter of leveraging all those different activities into an environment that's compelling to use but also creates a good business case both for the labels and the publisher creating these services.

Where does Yahoo Music fit within that broader digital music landscape?
It never was that big of an on-demand music streaming service. There was just a couple of hundred thousand subscribers in that business. It grew its presence through original and licensed content that it used to attract a mass audience. I haven't even started yet, but thinking about where it's been, where it is now, and where I'd like to take it... I think that's going to be a big focus. It's packaging content in a way that's most appealing to free, ad-supported uses. One of the things that's lacking is a place where you can do everything online. That doesn't really exist today, and I'd like to dig into whether there's a compelling business case for that.

What would you say is Yahoo's greatest strength and greatest weakness?
The scale of the traffic and the ad sales, as well as the scalable product development, are probably the three biggest assets. If you were starting a site from scratch you couldn't even dream about some of these capabilities. One site may have a little bit more traffic or another might excel as selling certain types of advertising, but on the other hand if you look at the whole package, I think Yahoo is in a very good position. As weaknesses go, I couldn't put my finger on right now, because anything that other sites are succeeding in Yahoo could also succeed it given their resources. Certainly we'll be looking at it from a strong return on investment business standpoint. The willingness to invest and the willingness to take chances is there, that's the message I got and that's why I was attracted to the opportunity.

What lessons did you learn at UMG that will apply to the new role at Yahoo?
From the perspective of what makes sense for labels and for labels partners, scale is vital. Labels are not going to be cooperative with tiny sites because they don't move the needle for them. they are looking for scale opportunities, and I think Yahoo provides that. And then from seeing many, many business models come and go when I was on the label site, I think I can cast a critical and educated eye on some of the biz models and opportunities we might pursue.

Now that you're no longer working for a label, what advice do you have for your former colleagues on how they should be approaching their digital music strategies?
Its very difficult. Having sat on the inside for so long, I can certainly admit the labels have made some mistakes. On the other hand, we were dealt a pretty difficult hand as well. Now, they're in no better position than they were in the sense that download growth is slowing down, dominated by one retailer. The ancillary revenue streams like ringtones are in decline, and the new possibilities like Nokia's Comes With Music haven't panned out yet either. But there's no denying that demand for music is as strong as ever. It's just a mater finding a way to present it to consumers in a way that can be monetized either directly or through compelling advertising opportunities.

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