How desperate is EMI? Desperate enough to hire the co-founder of Sadville? Amazingly, yes. Not only is a graphics programmer joining the storied British music group as head of “digital strategy” – he cheerfully admits he doesn’t know anything about the music business. And he doesn’t even like music – he’s only bought five albums in the past eight years and three of those are by Rush.
Welcome to EMI, then, Linden Labs co-founder Cory Ondrejka.
Of course, not knowing anything about the business one is in, or liking the product it produces, are no obstacle to a successful career. But after years of digital flops, the music business needs some savvy. And here, it’s EMI’s claim that “Ondrejka drove multiple initiatives that generated enormous value from user participation, creation, and collaboration” that might raise a few eyebrows.
Second Life is the puerile virtual reality game that Ondrejka midwifed. It’s best known to regular Reg readers for its flying penises and currency scams. However, it’s lacking in all the things EMI (or any other digital music company) needs. Scalability, security, and sustainability – three things music companies desperately need from their technology providers – are all lacking in Sadville.
For all the acres of press coverage, Second Life never matched the numbers claimed for it. Deceptively, the company claimed people who’d logged in once – a number it said was in the millions (12m at the latest claim), were “residents”. The true figure (which Linden Labs no longer displays on the front page) was between 15,000 and 20,000 – the population of a small town, as Shaun Rolph pointed out here in The phony economics of Second Life last year.
Linden Labs sucked down over $30m worth of investment from VCs in order to draw a crowd of just a few thousand. (The privately-held company now claims it is profitable, but that comes from money generated by a handful of fanatical subscribers, mostly from recurring virtual “land” fees.
(It’s not called Sadville for nothing.)
And even with tiny numbers, compared to far more popular multiplayer games, Second Life creaked beneath the load. Just this weekend another attempt to scale the network saw these problems fixed:
“Avatar no longer sinks slowly while hovering (and ‘hopefully’ [our emphasis] no longer displays other slow rise/fall symptoms in hover modes) and “Avatar no longer gets stuck in hover when walking up stairs or impacting prims at certain angles”.
Ah, yes. That’ll come in useful at EMI.