November 27, 2003

Michael: Your Minutes Are Up, All 15 of Them

Michael Robertson put himself in the news again, this time proposing that all of the music at MP3.com be "donated" to Brewster's Internet Archive.

A recent Michael's Minute at his software company website decried CNET's plan to shut down the MP3.com music servers and erase the files on there on December 3rd.

On the "Pho" mailing list this past week, Michael's been defending his article and decision to sell MP3.com in the first place (a deal netting him over $100 million). He claims he had to sell, that MP3 was a public company and he had a fiduciary duty to make a decision that was in the best interest of shareholders.

Let's see.

First of all, Michael's expression of support for "saving" all the indie music at MP3.com is touching, but I'm not buying it. A handy way of getting his name (and his companys' names) in the news, though. And his comparing the recent San Diego fires to the "scheduled" "fire" "to take place on December 3rd" by CNET is downright grotesque and trivializes the real loss of lives, livelihoods, and property that San Diego experienced a month ago.

As for why Robertson sold MP3.com: First, was it really his decision, or was he forced to by the board and the bankers? One would love to know. Let's say for argument's sake that it was his decision. Ok. If he hadn't sold, wouldn't the company have gone bankrupt pretty much immediately? That would be a good question for the media to ask him. Seems to me that Vivendi Universal had MP3.com right where it wanted it, at the edge of a precipice, and the decision to sell, at a fire-sale price, was the only way out of a very dire situation. Would MP3.com have been able to continue as a going concern even 30 days later, had the sale not taken place?

As for the music: How much of the "most popular" music on MP3.com was genuinely popular? In the sense of real people at their own computers really downloading and listening to it? Versus, how much of that "popularity" and download activity was faked, typically by the artists themselves, using bots or other schemes to generate tons of downloads (and pay for plays)? Only the data would tell us for sure. Trust the data. Wouldn't it be something if the data told us that in reality, MP3.com was to music as Enron was to energy?

Rather than the music, I would much rather see all of MP3.com's historical downloading and pay-for-play data be stored at Archive.org, so that an independent study could be made of what was real and what was not at MP3.com.

Posted by brian at November 27, 2003 11:59 AM

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