January 10, 2013:Beats hires Topspin’s Ian Rogers as CEO for Daisy streaming music service

Last year, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor revealed he was working with Beats on a streaming music service called Daisy, to launch in 2013. Now it has a CEO: Ian Rogers.

Yes, that Ian Rogers, poached from his current role as boss of direct-to-fan company Topspin, having previously worked in music roles for Yahoo, Mediacode and Grand Royal.

“I’m jumping up and down excited to be able to share that I’m taking on the role of CEO of the project currently known as ‘Daisy’,” wrote Rogers in a personal blog post published today, with Beats announcing the news in a conference call with journalists this evening.

Rogers isn’t leaving Topspin in the lurch: Beats is making a strategic investment in Topspin, including a partnership to “provide a direct connection to artists inside the coming service”.

He’ll also stay on as executive chairman and a member of Topspin’s board of directors, replaced as CEO by current COO Jeremy Bellinghausen. In his post, Rogers says Topspin’s revenues grew by 50% in 2012, indicating continued growth for the company’s business.

But wait: a direct connection to artists inside Daisy? This is where the story gets really interesting, and genuinely disruptive for established digital music services like Spotify, Rhapsody and Deezer.

“This is an enormous opportunity for Topspin to take the approach we’ve pioneered with MTV, YouTube, and the ArtistLink API generally and set the gold standard for how artists can be integrated into consumer music services,” wrote Rogers.

“This is the next step in the evolution of the way fans find the music they love and connect directly with the artists who make it. I am stoked and fortunate to get to be a part of it.”

Throughout 2012 there was an increasingly heated debate about streaming music services and artists, with a number of the latter disenchanted not just with their payouts from streamed songs, but with the lack of opportunities to work directly with those streaming services, and connect directly with fans using them.

Both Spotify and Deezer are reaching out to artists on the latter count – the payouts are out of their hands – with Spotify keen for artists to act as curators on its service, while Deezer is kicking off a similar Deezer for Artists initiative. Rival Rdio has gone further, promising to pay artists commission when fans they lead to its service sign up for subscriptions.

There is still an opportunity for somebody to become the artist-friendly streaming music service, though, which is clearly what Daisy is angling for.

Update: Topspin has published a blog post giving some more details on how its Daisy integration might work: “Topspin GoDirect will become the way the Daisy service gets photos, videos and products from artists, and both companies will work together to make sure fans see those products when they listen to songs,” explains SVP of product and marketing Bob Moczydlowsky, who cites Daisy CCO Trent Reznor as an example.

“When Trent Reznor uses Topspin to release music and merch on his website, his products should appear inside the streaming services, where the millions of fans listening to his catalog of songs should have the ability to connect and hear from Trent directly when he has new music, merchandise, and tour dates.”

It already has the infrastructure required to run a streaming service thanks to Beats’ purchase of Mog last July, but Rogers’ appointment gives it genuine credibility on the artist-friendly criteria too – along with Reznor’s involvement as chief creative officer, and the involvement of Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine higher up the food chain within Beats.

There are big challenges ahead: licensing costs and the marketing required to reach a scale to compete with Spotify and whatever Apple has planned for iTunes’ evolution. It’s unclear how Beats’ relationship with HTC is spinning out in relation to Mog (and now Daisy), too.

Still, these questions are what make Daisy such an intriguing service – and which presumably attracted Rogers to the role. “I’m sure you can appreciate my desire to get back in the game building music services for fans,” he wrote in the blog post.

“When I left Yahoo! to join Topspin in April of 2008 I was frustrated by the resistance I was meeting from the labels; I felt I was trying to help and my help wasn’t welcome. Times have changed, though, and as Rob Wells at Universal Music Group points out in a conversation we had a year ago, the future health of the industry is dependent on getting these services to scale.”

Another quote springs to mind from a recent Wired profile of Rogers, published at the end of 2012, in which he’s asked about the significant time and money it took Spotify to launch in the US:

“It shouldn’t be that hard. The fact that it has cost them that much money to get to where they are is not their fault. It’s the industry’s fault. The industry has stood in the way of building something the industry needs.”

Now Daisy. 2013 suddenly got a lot more interesting.


Stuart Dredge
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