David Pakman (CEO of eMusic—but you already knew that, right?) has traditionally confined his public comments to press interviews. However in the wake of reports about some labels being dissatisfied with eMusic, Pakman has chosen to bypass the press and take his case directly to eMusic customers using 17 dots, eMusic’s official unofficial blog. His points are pretty much what you’d expect: customers don’t want DRM, they do want music to be less expensive, and the music industry needs to recognize these facts and adapt to them. I’ve previously commented on these points, and will do so again, but I thought for this post it’s more interesting to look at the why of Pakman’s post as opposed to the what.

In particular, some people have questioned Pakman’s decision to post to 17 dots as opposed to seeking some other venue; for example, in a comment on Pakman’s post, “Bill” wrote: “A long, involved corporate response is at least out of place in what’s generally a space reserved for music appreciation.” For what it’s worth, I think 17 dots was not a bad place to post this. What were the alternatives? Let’s consider them one by one:

  • Why not publish a press release? This really isn’t a press release sort of thing. Besides, Pakman wasn’t necessariyl addressing his comments to the world at large, I think he was primarily addressing them primarily to (a subset of) eMusic customers and secondarily to others in the music industry—basically the sets of people who’d already have read the negative eMusic stories.
  • Why not talk to the press? The press deals in sound bites, and Pakman had a lot to say that couldn’t be summed up in a sound bite. Also, I’m sure he wanted to make sure his message didn’t get distorted on its way to the intended audience.
  • Why not post something on the eMusic web site? As I implied above, I think only a fraction of eMusic’s customer base (and a fairly small fraction at that) knows about or cares about negative eMusic press stories. Presumably Pakman didn’t want to run the risk of provoking disquiet among eMusic customers who’ve been blissfully downloading and likely aren’t affected by a few labels pulling out here and there.
  • Who not post something to the eMusic message board? I suspect that the number of people who are deeply interested in matters eMusic is significantly larger than the number of people reading the message boards and (especially) posting to them. (I certainly see comments on Pakman’s post from people whom I don’t recall ever seeing comment on the message boards.) I suspect that most if not all of these “power users” are reading 17 dots, especially given that it’s advertised on the eMusic site.

In the end I think 17 dots was probably the best venue at hand. If Pakman had already started a CEO blog he could have posted it there, but he didn’t and couldn’t. I actually think it would be nice if 17 dots could be expanded to have eMusic employees talk about more than music. However, other than noncontroversial topics like the new download manager, I think most of the topics that people might want more information on (e.g., customer support issues, complaints about price increases, and so on) are topics that eMusic isn’t comfortable with discussing in a public forum. We’ll see if Pakman’s post heralds a new era of management openness at eMusic, but I suspect it was a one-off event.