Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael Robertson Wins for the Craziest Digital Music Idea

Michael Robertson, always the wanna-be defender of the little guy (while stepping all over shareholders, former employees, vendors, customers, musicians, partners, copyright holders, etc.), asked in his latest blog for people to vote for the "Craziest Digital Music Ideas Ever."

Boy, he sure forget a whopper from his list:
My.MP3 - Michael Robertson's pet project which tanked MP3.com from a market cap in the billions to millions. MP3.com went public for over $25 per share, and ultimately sold for under $6 per share. (I'm not sure my dog could have done that poorly.) As usual with Robertson, many investors lost big and employees who held stock options were left underwater, and the artists and customers (who Robertson built MP3.com on the backs of) lost a once-promising website. Of course, Robertson made off big, even if most other shareholders didn't.
Why it was crazy: Because it blatantly violated copyright law, and handed MP3.com the largest judgment for copyright infringement in history. "The complex marvels of cyberspatial communication may create difficult legal issues; but not in this case. Defendant's (MP3.com) infringement of plaintiffs' copyrights is clear." ~ Judge Rakoff
When I get asked, "How do you start a small business?" I answer, "Buy a big one, let Michael Robertson run it, and wait awhile." Robertson never wanted to be known as a "one trick poney." I never understood that. What was his FIRST successful "pony?" Destroying MP3.com?
Kevin

7 comments:

Larry P. said...

Kevin,

When I read MR's article the other day, I had a similar thought. Why would he leave his own failure out? That was right up there with what he's saying about other crazy ideas.

However, all analysis paled when I read your comment:

[ When I get asked, "How do you start a small business?" I answer, "Buy a big one, let Michael Robertson run it, and wait awhile." ]

While unfortunately true, I haven't had a good belly-laugh like that in awhile. You do have a way of making a good point.

While some seem to think otherwise, I believe you're prior business relationship with MR provide you insight that most others miss.

Thank you, Kevin.

Regards,
Larry P.

Kevin Carmony said...

Thanks Larry.

I'm by no means alone in my distaste for Robertson. I don't really know anyone who has worked for him who cares for him, and I know many who would never have anything to do with him again...stockholders, former employees, partners, vendors, investors, etc.

I think it's important the truth about Robertson is out there, and as I say, it's not just me who feels that way. Anyone thinking of having any involvement with him should email me, and I'll give them dozens of names of people they should talk with first.

Because Robertson is so litigious, most are afraid to speak out publicly about him, but privately, he's disliked (and distrusted) tremendously. I just happen to be one of the few not afraid of speaking out publicly about him (it's how you stop a bully). Someone needs to. He's already sued me twice. (Funny how he has time to sue lots of former employees, but it's been two years without the Linspire shareholders hearing from him as to what happened to their investment.)

Hopefully I can help others from being burnt by Robertson, as so many have.

Kevin

Carl said...

BTW, what's going on with the lawsuit against him by the shareholders? Is there somewhere this is being actively discussed? Is the case still pending?

Kevin Carmony said...

Carl,

It's still winding its way through the court system. Could be a year or two before it ever even gets to a hearing. Robertson is the king of delay when he wants to be.

Come the end of July, it will have been TWO YEARS since I left the company and there has been no meaningful communication with the shareholders during that time. He sold all the company's assets off to Xandros a year ago, and still no update or accounting to the shareholders. I'm sure most of the 100 Linspire shareholders have given up on ever seeing a penny for their investment, or ever hearing what happened (which is exactly what Robertson is counting on, since an accounting will show him to be either a crook, greedy, incompetent, or all three), but hopefully any would-be investors with Robertson would think twice before having anything to do with him. All they have to do is see how he's treated the 100 Linspire shareholders to know what they can expect.

Kevin

vistalo said...

I worked at MP3.com and can tell you that it was successful in spite of Robertson, not because of him. Our biggest challenges usually stemmed from Robertson's ineptness, and as you correctly pointed out, our ultimate demise was a direct outcome of his My.MP3 project. It was a true shame what he did to that once-great company.

TheAlmightyCthulhu said...

The failure of the music business is almost entirely self-inflicted.

Robertson's mismanagement of MP3.com is one of the more amusing parts of the collapse of the record industry as MP3.com came about right at the point in time where the RIAA was still trying to kill off the MP3 business through litigation and FUD.

Even now, the recording industry is still trying to thrive on teh concept of "artificial scarcity = more valuable" by refusing to hand over source material and letting stores and consumers encode it the way they want it.

Apple's painful and clunky transition from 128k DRM-encumbered AAC to 256k non-DRM was made that way because the record industry insisted on re-ripping everything themselves and providing Apple with only the lossy versions of the files.

What was even more stunning is how Apple *sold* the "upgraded" files all over again through the "upgrade my library" "feature".

The entire point of not handing over source files is that you will always have to repurchase the newest rips every time the formats change.

It's the music industry's attempt to keep you indefinitely rebuying the same music, no longer due to any improvements in the physical recording medium (there are none) but due to the fact that you can't re-rip to the new format without an incredible quality penalty.

Nothing horrifies the RIAA more than the concept of the end of incompatible format changes, because they could no longer indefinitely resell you their entire back catalog over and over.

Mashup said...

WOW, talk about grabbing a suitcase of cash and running as fast as you can. I will say that any online business (the .com's) is a roll of the dice. I can't even imagine what I would do if I had the mp3 domain. Unreal potential. Good post bud.