Longtime broker between the music industry and digital music firms will launch his own consultancy in July, with EMI and music info provider Muze lined up as clients.
The music industry's most high-profile digital emissary is flying the coup. Ted Cohen, who was one of the first music industry execs to support digital distribution and who has served as the industry's digital ambassador of sorts, has left his post at label giant EMI to start his own consultancy.
Cohen, 56, had served as senior vice president of digital distribution for the UK music company and was largely credited for pushing the label to embrace digital music services as new avenues for distribution, promotion, and marketing of the label's artists like Coldplay and Gorillaz.EMI was the first major label to allow listeners to download and keep songs from its catalog, as well as allow users to transfer music to portable players.
Cohen has also been a tireless spokesman for the industry's efforts to move towards digital distribution, even in the face of widespread skepticism from digital execs who watched the labels plod towards the digital age before the arrival of Apple's iTunes/iPod juggernaut. Cohen was a featured speaker at almost every major digital music industry conference and event.
Cohen said he missed the startup mature of the digital group he formed when he joined in EMI in 2000, having left a solo consulting gig with clients like Liquid Audio and the original Napster at that time. He equated EMI's embrace of his digital group of the feeling of a startup company being acquired.
But Cohen stressed that he is leaving on good terms, noting that EMI will be one his LA-based firm's first clients. The firm, which launches July 5, will be called TAG Strategic and is a partnership with Gary Price, a former AT&T exec and streaming media guru, and an as-yet-unnamed film industry exec who will represent the "A" in TAG.
"This time I wanted it to be a real company and wanted it to be broader than just music," Cohen said, saying the firm's focus will be helping companies find new business models and form alliances between technology and media companies.
He pointed to the emergence of high-capacity Blu-Ray and HD-DVD technology as a further sign of convergence between the movie and music industries.
"Within two years, the idea of a separate soundtrack for a film is going to go out the window," he said. "It will just go right on the DVD."
In addition to EMI, the firm's initial client roster will include music information provider Muze, guitar maker Gibson, content delivery experts SyncCast, MeSoft, and PureVideo.
"The business has matured, and deliverables are more critical now," Cohen said. "I'm a good schmoozer, I know that--but we're in a more results-driven era of the business now."
But for most of the next month, Cohen will be doing something he rarely does: be a homebody. The longtime technophile is a gadget junkie, and says those gadgets have taken over his home, something he hopes to remedy in the next few weeks.
"I realize that I haven't been home for more than two weeks in 25 years," he said. "Right now my home is a cross between one of those computer fairs and the backroom at Fry's [Electronics]. Do I really need all the boxes from 75 cell phones?"
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