Be careful what you wish for. Owen Van Natta, the former Facebook COO who left the social network in February, has gotten the CEO job he said he wanted — as the new chief of Project Playlist, an online-music startup. (It's been widely reported that MySpace wooed him to run its MySpace Music spinoff. He also had conversations with social-news site Digg and shopping search engine Nextag, among others.) Van Natta's an investor in Project Playlist, and the company has just announced funding from former AOL CEO Bob Pittman's Pilot Group. But powerful backers won't change the toxic business environment all online-music startups face.A group of record labels sued Project Playlist in April — which is, sad to say, the music industry's usual approach to beginning talks. Van Natta has a reputation as a skilled dealmaker, and he led talks with the labels while at Facebook. But sources who have had recent negotiations with labels say they have been granting only short-term licenses for music — typically a year in length. Their strategy is to give startups a year to grow — and then shake them down for most of the profits they generate. Does Van Natta think he can get a better deal? Since he's taking the job, he must be betting on it.
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