Monday, June 09, 2008

new job, not like the old job

Many key moments of my career have soundtracks.

  • Deciding to leave Lockheed Sanders, move to California, and help start Acclaim Coin-Op? Jane’s Addiction’s live album.
  • Finally crushing Armageddon’s game object memory leak? Veruca Salt’s "8 Arms to Hold You."
  • Road Rash’s threading crash bug and final Nintendo approval? Hole’s "Celebrity Skin."
  • Adding lists into Second Life’s scripting language? Rush’s "Vapor Trails."
I listen to music riding BART, walking to work, on airplanes, and while I write. I’ve spent countless hours programming with headphones on.

Despite this, I neither buy nor hear much new music. Since 2000, I’ve only purchased 5 albums. Three by Rush (enough of my friends are Rush fans, so somebody reminds me when they release a new album), Pearl Jam’s "Pearl Jam" (I read a Rolling Stone review in an airport), and REM’s Accelerate (best Terry Gross interview on "Fresh Air" in months.)

Why not? I hear lots of new music I like – anything from the first couple seasons of Alias would work – but I never hear new music in the right context to buy it. When I listen to radio, I’m listening to NPR to catch up on the news. The good local music stores are all gone. When I’m working, I want to hear music I like, so I have a very low threshold for experimentation. Coworker’s iTunes shares provide a hint at something new, but DRM and the hassles of being on the wrong computer – working on a desktop when my music is on my phone and laptop – keep me from jumping onto the iTunes Music Store to make a purchase.

Note that none of this lack of purchasing is because I’m just torrenting stuff. The problem is that connecting discovery of new music to the ability to own the music is completely jacked. Even when I knew I wanted something – Accelerate – I had the problem that I was traveling with my MacBook Air, so buying a CD was useless. I had never setup the iTMS on that computer and you would be amazed at how hard Apple has made that process. It’s like they don’t want to sell me music. Then, once I did remember all the passwords I needed, I couldn’t figure out whether the iTunes download was DRM free. So I went to Amazon, which was slightly easier and made it clear the download wasn’t broken via DRM.

It is incredibly frustrating. I want to be able to find new music. When I find new music, I’m happy to pay the artists for it. Once I own music, I want to be able to listen to it wherever I am. How hard can this be?

I’m about to find out. Two weeks ago, I joined EMI Music as SVP of Digital Strategy.

Why EMI? By hiring Douglas Merrill, EMI has demonstrated a commitment to capitalize on all the technology available to make the music experience better for artists and fans. At Linden, the most important changes I drove were blends of technology and licensing, so when Douglas asked me to join him at EMI, I jumped at the chance. Music touches everyone in the world and is uniquely part of our lives -- how could I not take this challenge?

Obviously, I have a lot to learn about music and EMI, so I’ll be spending time in London and Los Angeles. Moreover, I'll be reaching out to many of you for help as I figure out how to build the right team to generate sustained, ongoing innovation around music. (Want to work on these challenges? Let me know!)

And, yes, I will be definitely be blogging about it.

Oh, and what was I listening to when I decided to join EMI? REM’s Accelerate.

(OK, go back to waiting for Jobs' keynote now)


Anonymous said...

Conga-rats on the new job. I've been fairly adept at finding new music; the first job where I really made a mark was as a software engineer at We did a lot of innovative things while I was there, from the first web affiliate program to the first digital downloads store.

One of the coolest things I was a part of there was an email list any employee could join; customers would send us questions like "Who plays that song in the Volkwagon commercial?" Between us, we always seems to get the right answer. The entire company was built of music lovers, and over the years, many of us had stayed in touch, continuing to recommend music to one another.

I also found quite a few of my favorite artists while working on the "Album Advisor", one of the web's first taste prediction engines. Somehow, it knew I'd love Delerium since I bought so much My Bloody Valentine, even though the sounds are so different (hooray for purchasing habit analysis). You're up for a big challenge, and I wish you the best of luck!

Mailman said...

For some time, I've been using Netflix and iTunes as if I were buying indulgences from the old church. I grab what I want in the format I want from wherever I like. Then, I rent or purchase after the fact to avoid feeling like a leech. Most of the time, I don't even take the Netflix envelope indoors before sending it back on its way.

This is how stupidly convoluted my interface with the media industries has become.

It would be awesome if you were the guy to fix this.

Ken said...

Good luck, Cory! This'll be worth watching. I really think you have the potential to make an impact there...and I'll be looking forward to a blogger's (and outsider's) view into the industry.


Evonne @ Amoration said...

Congrats and best wishes turning around a tough industry! If anyone knows how to build better models on how to protect both organizations and individual artists, it's you.

Let us know if you need anything in LA; our home is su casa.

WafflesRevenge said...

Congrats, this sounds like it will be a fun challenge. Also, it sounds like you will be bringing a really fresh perspective to an old business model. Does your current music consumption habits concern you?

Well since you noted how little music you purchase I'm throwing in a reconmendation for you, Muse Absolution or Black Holes.

Well best of luck, at least there is a ton of opportunity out there!

JasonEpitaph said...

Hey Cory,

Good luck at your new post at EMI. When I saw EMI brought you on board and I read through this blog post it got me excited for the future of that company. You have the right idea and it is great to see someone at a major singing the tune that the consumer has been screaming for the past few years.

The truth is we are in the most exciting time of the music industry. Money is coming in from new and creative areas (even if it is small amounts), people are finally thinking outside the box and music is more popular than it ever has been. The problem with people in the music industry is they have been so attached to their old ways they don't see the opportunity. There is a DEMAND for music and it is our JOB to figure out how to make money off of it.

It is great to see you understanding this. It is great to see you understanding the way a consumer wants to interact with music... It isn't until the industry understands and embraces what it's customer wants that we can actually make a difference.

Jason - Epitaph.

epredator said...

Excellent news there Cory. Good luck. (Yet another SVP on my contact list :-) must be my turn next)

The media industry clearly needs some work doing to it. The shock of web2.0 and the way the world has been working needs some careful guidance. Enjoy

Also when you are over this side of the pond feel free to grab some of us at eightbar and Hursley. We may have some things that are of use to you, or maybe we can just have a beer.

Giff said...

Congrats on the move Cory, new frontiers are always fun and EMI has been one of the most forward thinking of the music giants. I can't wait to see what happens when their willingness to innovate combines with your efforts. - Giff

Troy Mc said...

Please excuse my ignorance in matters linked to thee, I can understand a VP but what's an SVP?

chris23 said...

Congrats Cory.

Lately I've been finding a lot of music via LastFM and Pandora. These services, as well internet radio in general, are definitely facing a lot of issues around licensing. Probably an area rich in both your personal music pursuits as well as your new business task.

Best of luck (and, fwiw, I'd love to be involved in any further discussions!)

Chris Arkenberg

Anonymous said...

@Troy Mc: SVP = Senior Vice President

Unknown said...

How totally depressing. You clearly don't like music much. And the music you do like is very narrow, and frankly uninteresting and not exactly engaged with the moment (3 Rush albums?) You make no reference to any of the great music discovery services available online, and while it's great that you will lend a 'fresh perspective', I do hope that you are able to develop a more permanent solution than the dull dull dull famous-for-5-minutes world of Second Life. EMI is right that it needs people with a new approach. But it will also help to have people who actually like the product they're figuring out how to sell. Good luck. You will need it. But in the best traditions of the ever-changing music business, you probably won't be there for long anyway - I think you'll find the music biz far more restrictive and bound to the old ways of doing things than you expect, and it will be hard for you (and Merrill) not to get quickly frustrated. Hope the equity participation makes it all worthwhile!

Richard Bartle said...

I don't know if you're keeping track of references to your move, but you made it to the business pages of today's Guardian, which is more than anyone else from the virtual world industry has ever done!

Have fun!


Jazzman J. said...

Good luck with the new gig Cory, but you really have to step away from your computer and go hear some live music.
If you need to be at the confuser machine, as you obviously do, then check out a service I've been using for some time now called
You'll know better than me how it works, but it stays essentially within my tastes while adding tunes and artists I've never heard before.
I find it more than a bit disconcerting that a music company like EMI would hire somebody with your described tastes, so I'm sure you have broader likes/dislikes than indicated.
I mean do you listen to no jazz, classical or opera? Mozart makes you smarter man.

Unknown said...

Congratulations. its been a long time since Acclaim Coin-op. Formed HamptonFarms Ventures a couple of years ago and have spent most of my time in mobile entertainment, content, and applications. Coincidentally I started looking at opportunities that might make sense for the major labels. I would enjoy exploring those opportunities with you once you have settled in. My email is

Lots of luck in your new position,

Greg Fischbach

cory ondrejka said...

Yup, was on Japan TV with's founder years ago. Very, very bright folks over there.

cory ondrejka said...

Thank you, Richard! Sorry I won't get to cross paths with you this trip -- next time, I hope.

Cable Free said...


Your are exactly the type of person the music industry needs, someone with a truly technical background that can create an environment where people can communicate and share ideas. People want to share music!!!
This is not a bad thing and it can be good for an artist if the right model is created that can benefit both the consumer and the artist. Technology has put the consumer in charge and I hope you can create a model that will set an example for the rest of the industry. I want to be able to discover new music and Pandora is only one to date that has given me the best experience and even they have some work to do. Labels must work with Web 2.0 companies to make music discovery easier and consumers will spend money even though there will always be people who will try to beat the system.

I am looking forward to the change that you will bring and please keep us posted.

clive@we7 said...

Welcome aboard Cory.

It was great to meet you in what was your first external meeting in London last Monday morning and to tell you about what we do. is a great place for people to discover new music, now including streaming albums for free. And all downloads from We7 are drm-free mp3s that play anywhere on anything. So we're right on track with your initial thoughts.

Keep blogging. It will be fascinating to read your insights and your journey.

There are some great ideas and companies around which will benefit from your fresh perspective and lack of baggage.

Good Luck. Its the challenge and the chance of a lifetime.

Unknown said...

"Music touches everyone in the world"

Except you, it seems.

You're the last thing the music industry needs.

It's like asking a vegetarian to come up with exciting new trends in butchery.

Anonymous said...

Best of luck at your new gig.

I don't know how relavent this is to you, but lately I have wanted to just play My music collection in second life, not use a radio station, but the music I have bought (legally, because I am old and lazy)and collected and loved .

Just days after reading about your new challenge, I found a post on tumblr about mediamaster - just what I wanted. ~woot~
OMG there was EMI suing over online storage and playback of content.

It appears you have the same battles to fight, that challenged you at LL but now your deep inside the belly of the beast. I wish you best of luck for all of us.


Anonymous said...

As you become more engrossed in things less SL based, you may want to just peek back in on occasion. Sit back, put on some music ~LOL~, F11 on a PC for full screen and enjoy:

Jared said...


I read with interest you desire to move the industry back towards paying for music and understand why this must happen for the industry to survive and continue to produce great sounds.

I have an idea. In fact I have a few and with your recent move over to EMI you are in a perfect position to exploit them.

My company is Cable & Wireless a Tier 1 telecomunications provider. We work very closley with companies such as The BBC in the UK and many other retail and media establishments. Can you advise who I can speak to in EMI in the UK or do you make any visits and perhaps we could meet to discuss some of our ideas.

San Francisco Photos said...

I side with you here! My whole life is a big soundtrack and many parts of it are all different with different genres, moods and themes.

Anonymous said...

Cory, I've been listening to an English band of late, that has not yet quite surfaced as well known as Pearl Jam, they are called Porcupine Tree and deliver on all fronts with quality sound and astute writing. Maybe worth a listen? My two cents worth... Cheers Ian.

me said...

Congrats on your move! Just chanced upon your site but got intrigued when you mentioned EMI as they are one of the content providers my company is working with out here in Asia.

The one beef I have about the digital music industry right now as it stands is that there is no standardisation across the industry. Licensing is a mess, I'm sure the back end calculations for royalties, publishing rights, etc, are equally messy. DRM vs non-DRM? Subscription vs a la carte? DRM OMA or some other protocol?

Hope you can help shake up the industry and come up with some cool innovative strategies for the digital platform. I'd love to be a part of it.

As for finding new music, I surf myspace pages, get recommendations from my label partners, and sometimes just pop into a CD shop and browse.

Good luck with the job!