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"By combining our leading music brands and expertise—including the talent at Spinner, Nullsoft and the AOL Brand—with AOL’s hallmark ease of use and convenience, we are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of the market and deliver a compelling online music experience for consumers."
HE’S GOT RESPONSIBILITIES
AOL Music Chief Kevin Conroy Tells Us
To Wait In Line
At this point, AOL Senior Vice President and head of AOL Music Kevin Conroy is a longtime veteran of the digital music wars. As Chief Marketing Officer and President of New Technology for BMG Entertainment, he was responsible for overseeing and coordinating all corporate marketing and new media development for BMG’s businesses during the Strauss Zelnick era—going all the way back to the dark ages of 1995.

Now at the helm of arguably the most advanced online music offering—in terms of user-friendliness and things actually functioning—Conroy is poised to take digital music to the next level, as only AOL can. AOL is set to be one of the first distributors of MusicNet (along with RealNetworks and Napster, if it can get its legal house in order). WMG owns 20%, as do partners BMG and EMI, while RealNetworks holds the other 40% of the venture, which is due to launch later this summer.

In true America Online fashion, AOL Music is exploring a variety of ways to deliver and market music through the company’s flagship subscription service, as well as what has come to be known as "the America Online family of interactive brands"—which includes Justin Frankel’s Nullsoft, birthplace of the legendary Winamp desktop player —and, of course, the notorious Gnutella fly in the ointment.

Conroy recently described the current state of digital distribution, consumer preferences and other fun stuff to our own Jon O’Hara "Airport."

You’ve said, "While there’s tremendous excitement around engaging with music in this new medium, it’s terribly important that we make sure the experience is easy, seamless and integrated." By way of assessing how far things have come, let’s take those attributes one at a time. At this point, how easy is the experience for the user who wants to acquire music legitimately online? Are we realistically approaching a threshold where ease of use will increase significantly?
Acquiring music online is not as easy as it should be. However, ease of use is one of AOL’s core strengths. Rather than focus too narrowly on any one specific consumption model such as a la carte downloads, file sharing, subscription, etc., AOL Music will take a more holistic approach, integrating a number of programming and commerce offerings into a seamless experience for consumers. By combining our leading music brands and expertise—including the talent at Spinner, Nullsoft and the AOL Brand—with AOL’s hallmark ease of use and convenience, we are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of the market and deliver a compelling online music experience for consumers.

Where do we stand in terms of integration? Are separate software players/DRM applications going to be with us for the foreseeable future? With two main major-label initiatives in MusicNet and Pressplay emerging, will an online distributor such as AOL be able to integrate both into a single interface?
Our goal is to create a single integrated platform that will provide a full range of music products and services across AOL’s family of brands. There is no doubt that standards would be very beneficial and this is something that the music, technology and consumer electronics industries continue to work towards. However, there is still a great deal of opportunity that can be realized in the near-term by aggregating the many choices we know consumers are interested in and presenting them in a more integrated manner. This will present an effective starting point, which will allow us to continue working aggressively to improve upon this set of offerings over time. Fortunately, we are still in the experimental stage of online music discovery. MusicNet will be an important component of AOL’s overall offering and, as such, it will be important for us to make sure consumers understand the scope of what it offers. We need to clearly establish and manage expectations as we introduce and market these new service offerings.

The power of online marketing for new music is increasing, led by campaigns such as AOL Music’s recent ticket/CD pre-sell page for Sugar Ray. How important is back catalog in the online music sales equation? Is there a way to add value to catalog titles that would entice consumers to buy a digital download or subscription service even if they already own the CD?
Absolutely. The early growth of the CD market came primarily from consumers replacing their music collections. New formats and means of delivery have been a key driver of the growth of consumer spending for entertainment for many years. Most established marketing and distribution outlets (e.g., radio, video and retail) focus on new music and don’t do a very good job of building long-term relationships with consumers. As a result, catalog music is often overlooked. The Internet provides a very unique opportunity to interact with consumers and AOL has done a remarkable job of listening to its members and creating and delivering value. The relationships we are developing are long-term. This opens up incredible opportunities for us to market to music fans over an extended period of time and create new selling opportunities. We’re constantly evolving in our efforts to explore new and exciting ways to promote new music—including the online presale ticket promotions we’ve recently done for Madonna and Sugar Ray.

Does ownership matter to music consumers? Do people want to own downloads, album art, photos, etc., or do they just want access to the music, as could be made possible by an AOL Anywhere or My.MP3.com-type streaming service where users could log on from any PC (or other connected device) and play their collection? Will streaming on a large scale ever be cost effective?
The market for music is incredibly diverse and, for this reason, we are placing a great deal of emphasis on enabling music consumers to make choices. These choices will include the ability to access a wide range of uniquely packaged elements—audio, video, graphics, text and listening options, as well as different forms of ownership. In the near-term, streaming does have some limitations, but the situation will continue to improve. Enhancements to streaming services and the growth of broadband will enable us to expand the range of options we are able to offer to a diverse audience of music fans and consumers.

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Getting global with it.
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WHAT COMES AFTER TIKTOK?
Shorter videos! Weirder trends!
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