Say this for Douglas Merrill, the Google (GOOG) engineering VP now headed to run digital for music giant EMI: He’s smart enough not to say the wrong thing.
We just chatted with Douglas, who doesn’t start his new gig until April 28th but is doing a telephonic media tour. We tried to bait him into talking about EMI’s new digital plans, or at least critiquing the company’s prior attempts to figure out the Web and fix its dying business. Not happening. We did hear lots of talk about reaching out to music fans and musicians, though.
Right now, Douglas says, he’s still trying to figure out the lay of the land before he starts working out of EMI’s Capitol building in L.A. And then? “I’m a big fan of trying a lot of things. One of the things we learned at Google was that you have to try a lot of things, and not all of them will work. But they give you data. And by definition the data is right.” So how long will it take him to start turning that data into results? “I don’t have a good answer for you.”
We posited that the problem facing EMI (and the rest of big music) isn’t actually a tech problem: It’s a channel conflict problem, because the industry is still dependent on CDs and the retailers that sell them. Nope, says Douglas, not true: He cited (controversial) studies that linked file-sharing to increased CD sales, and implied that legal digital distribution could do the same thing. We’re glad he’s optimistic.
He did offer at least one piece of red meat for the tech set: We asked him how EMI’s DRM-free music is selling on Apple’s iTunes (AAPL), and while he didn’t have answer for us on that, he did hint that he wouldn’t mind seeing DRM disappear from all of EMI’s offerings. “Does DRM add value to users? To date, it doesn’t look like it’s helped the fans yet. It may help the artists, but that’s a different question.”
Look forward to seeing how that one pans out, particularly with any subscription services EMI offers going forward. In the meantime, enjoy the song Douglas says helped him land his job. When he met EMI boss Guy Hands in his London office, he says, he noted Guy had a Sex Pistols poster on his wall. So he treated him to a full-length rendition of this one. “Unlimited supply,” indeed:
See Also: EMI Gets New Digital Boss From Google
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