Today I got interrupted from my Swindleeeee!!!!! blogging slumber by the news that David Pakman is leaving eMusic. I have been critical of Pakman one or two times (most notably for not getting into social software earlier), and I have no idea how Pakman was perceived inside eMusic by its employees. However there’s no question that Pakman was a strong and consistent voice for moving the music industry past the DRM debacle, and that he had a clear (and I think mostly correct) vision of eMusic’s target market and how best to serve it; I suspect that without him eMusic would either have failed entirely or would have been acquired and then ruined by some clueless major corporation.
Among the copycat stories and regurgitations of the press release I found a couple of interesting tidbits regarding Pakman’s departure. The Forbes story has Pakman expressing continued skepticism on major label strategies (grasping at straws, as he puts it), a skepticism I share. The LA Times story makes the (I think important) point that all the other major services other than eMusic are focusing on major label music, so that there’s still good opportunity in the indie space. Over at Hypebot Bruce Houghton continues to obsess about eMusic payouts and worry about possible stagnation in eMusic’s business.
(To digress for a moment, I think Houghton is still out to lunch on the payout issue. Clearly if a) customers want to pay less for music in digital form and b) businesses like eMusic fill that demand, then c) per-track payouts—but not necessarily total profits—will be smaller. Complaining about this is like Wal-Mart suppliers complaining that they don’t have 50% gross margins. The alternative is keeping music expensive, which drives price-sensitive buyers to P2P. If eMusic’s business is indeed stagnating, that’s quite possibly the major reason: that more and more customers don’t want to pay anything at all for music.)
Finally, on his blog (Pakman has a blog? I had no idea!) Pakman talks about his looking for new opportunities to [use] the disruptive forces of technology to create new players in the value chain of media and technology industries. As a customer of those industries that’s a goal near and dear to me; I wish Pakman the best of luck in his future ventures, and look forward to (in Clayton Christensen’s phrase) seeing what’s next for him, eMusic, and the music industry in general.