Soundcloud, Pandora & Tidal: How Will Each New CEO Fare?

Kerry Trainor of AGETK, Roger Lynch of Pandora & Richard Sanders of AGE TK
Getty Images; Courtesy of Kobalt

Kerry Trainor of AGETK, Roger Lynch of Pandora & Richard Sanders of AGE TK

SoundCloud, TIDAL and Pandora announced new chief executives within a seven-day span this month. How will each fare in the digital music race? Says one record-label exec: "They're all dressing themselves up for a sale."


Previously: Kobalt Music Group president
Replaced: Jeff Toig
Successes: Helped launch Kobalt's label services division; bold catalog additions
Assets: Sprint's $200 million investment; artist-owners like JAY-Z and Beyoncé

Challenges: TIDAL struggled to gain and keep subscribers amid top-level turnover that sees Sanders as its fourth CEO in two years.

Analysis: "Almost the only thing that's been constant has been change," says Carey. "They need the right person in the job but also need to give them time to implement what you want from them." Still, with Sprint's 45 million customers, one label executive says, "We haven't begun to see the opportunities there with bundles."



Previously: Vimeo CEO
Replaced: Alexander Ljung
Successes: Increased Vimeo staff from 40 to 200; added 500,000 new paying creators
Assets: New $170 million investment; 88 million active users, per SimilarWeb 

Challenges: Closed San Francisco and London offices and laid off 40 percent of its workforce in July

Analysis: "SoundCloud is a beloved service," says Media Insight Consulting CEO Chris Carey. But to survive, it will have to adjust. "It's not, 'Can SoundCloud become a more professional service?'?" says MIDiA Research founder Mark Mulligan. "Yes, it can. It just has do it in a way that's authentic and honest to its user base."



Previously: Sling TV founding CEO
Replaced: Tim Westergren
Successes: Turned Sling into a 300-channel over-the-top TV leader in just two years
Assets: $480 million SiriusXM investment; 76 million monthly users; genome project 

Challenges: Declining radio user numbers; $275 million net loss in Q2 2017; expensive entry into on-demand streaming

Analysis: "I don't think Pandora is that far off from returning to its former glory," says Mulligan. "Its ad-revenue business is incredibly robust; it's just embarking on a subscription business. It needs to focus more on markets beyond the U.S., but it has the potential to turn things around." But a possible Liberty Media acquisition looms.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2 issue of Billboard.