The appointment of former Google chief information officer Douglas Merrill to president of EMI's digital business is certainly one of the more innovative executive moves made by a major label in recent memory.

Merrill -- an outsider to the music industry -- comes from a company known for championing experimentation and innovation, for taking a customer-centric approach to all initiatives, and for making information universally accessible in any from. But don't let his tech-geek background fool you, Merrill is a music nut as well, as evidenced by an impromptu jam he gave in the office of EMI chief Guy Hands.

Among the row of gold and platinum records on the wall in Hands' office is one of Merrill's favorite bands -- the Sex Pistols. Without missing a beat, the long-locked Merrill busted out his own rendition of the punk pioneers' "EMI" as Hands looked on during their first meeting. There's no telling whether that performance played a role in his landing the job, but what's clear is his passion for music.

"Music has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid," Merrill says. "I think back on the memories of my life and I can remember the songs that were playing at the time. I hear a song on the radio and it will remind me of them. I'm so excited to being a part of the industry trying to figure out what the next business model for it is."

Billboard had the opportunity to speak with Merrill the day his appointment was announced.

Why leave a strong company like Google that's leading a growing industry for the struggling music industry?
Google's a great company and there are some great people there, and I had a lot of fun. But on the other hand, I have the opportunity to be a part of figuring out the next chapter of this industry that helps people. Everyone loves music. No one doesn't like music. So for me it's falling back on first principles—artist want to create, that's why their artists; and fans want to engage and experience in that creativity. The interesting part for me is figuring out what role does the music company play going forward. How can music companies help artists create and help fans experience it? What a huge personal opportunity for me to get to be a part of an industry where the product is so important to me.

Where did you develop this passion for music?
I was deaf for a few years, and that's part of the story of why I love music so much. I got to live in a world for a while that didn't have music and I never want that to happen again. (Editor's Note: Merrill was deaf from age three to six as a result of an infection of his auditory nerves, and to this day speaks with a slight Canadian accent despite being raised in Arkansas due to a voice coach from Canada.)

It's been said that you believe social problems don't have technical solutions. Are the problems facing the music industry technical or social?
There's actually academic data that suggests file sharing is good for some artists. That's very much against the common prevailing wisdom, but the minute you look at the data on it you find some fascinating things. I think part of what I'm excited about doing at EMI is doing a bunch of experimenting to see what works and what doesn't. How do we add value to artists? How do we help fans find and experience artists? How do we find the right value to add? I'm really looking forward to see what happens in the next 12 months.

How do you plan to approach your role at EMI, and how will it be different from a typical digital business development guy?
I don't know what typical biz dev guys do. I'm from a different industry. My first thing will be to find my desk. I hope to be able to add value to EMI across the value chain. I don't know anything yet, so I'm bringing a fresh pair of eyes.

What lessons learned at Google will you apply to your new role at EMI?
There are few things that I carry pretty deep in me. Google has a thing they call "10 Things We Know to Be True." No. 1 on that list is "Follow the User and Everything Else Will Happen." So one of the things I want to do is figure out what our users want. How can we help artists? How can we help fans? So I want to focus on helping our users. I want to focus on adding value. Another thing is a heavy focus on experimentation.

One of the things which has enabled Google to be really great is a cultural value of trying things and seeing what happens. I want the opportunity to try a whole lot of business models in the music industry and see which ones work. I guarantee some of them won't, but some of them will.

What is the one thing you must address first?
I'm pretty excited about starting these experiments. Really excited about trying to see what kind of interaction models work. I'm interested, for example, in widgets. Is there a way for us to provide a really lightweight method to put music on their Web pages and we just stream music to them? [To] see if that's how they want to experience music.

Where do you see the opportunities in the challenges the music industry currently face?
Music is a product that everybody loves. Everyone listens to music and everyone has music as part of their lives. It's pretty awesome to be part of an industry where the product is so universally loved. I believe people will pay money for artist's creativity. What I don't know yet is where they'll pay money, and how much, and for what kind of form. So our great opportunity is to leverage new technologies and new ways of thinking to find that. I'm really looking forward to this new world.

What's your favorite band?
I'm a huge Sex Pistols fan. In my first meeting with Guy Hands we were in an office with a Sex Pistols record on the wall, so I gave him a him a spirited rendition of "EMI." I don't want the headline here to be "Douglas Can't Sing."