What did you wake up thinking about this morning? I woke up with a Spencer Wiggins song in my head — his version of “Feed the Flame.” It’s the perfect example of the licensing challenges of having a global music service. He’s an old soul singer from the ’60s who never quite had a mainstream hit. But you know he’s beloved by soul fans, which is the exact type of thing that services like [Google Play Music All Access] were designed for — to turn you on to great, lost music. The goal is to have all music.
Describe a lesson learned from failure. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but when I was working for Real Networks, Rhapsody had an online site with a free offer. We had a bit of a traffic crisis and we needed more page views. And one of the best ways to generate page views is with “listicles” — and if they can be of gorgeous, scantily clad women, all the better. So my hip-hop editor Sam Cherrault and I came up with what we thought were very good photo gallery ideas. But the day we crossed the line was when we did “Musical MILFs: Hot Moms in the Music Business.” On the one hand, it was the greatest thing we ever did — the traffic spike was un-friggin’-believable — but on the other hand, everyone hated what we were doing. It was causing dissention among the team, and everyone hated that we were doing it. And that was a failure in leadership on my part. I felt like I let everyone down. So even if it works, it’s not necessarily the best choice.
What will define your career in the coming year? All Access. Turning music as a service into an average-citizen way of listening to stuff. It’s already happening, but it’s something I’ve been working on for over a decade and I think it will come to full fruition in the next year or three. Nobody’s thinking twice about being able to think of a song and being able to play it instantly. But we want to give people the opportunity to do that and discover new things in the process.
Name a project you’re not affiliated with that has most impressed you in the past year. NPR Music’s “First Listen.” I was just listening to the new Superchunk album on my way to work through it, so I’m going to say that. It’s an amazing site. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted on a music site or service — it’s smart, it’s funny, it gives you just enough contextual information about why you’re listening to it, it turns you on to new things. It’s a model of how to do online music right.
Name a desert island album. “London Calling” by the Clash. It’s an album I probably listened to more than any other album in my collection. I still haven’t discovered all the mystery and joy in it. The lyrics, the arrangements — they’re all spectacular. It makes me want to create the “London Calling” of music services.