Head of Yahoo Music Ian Rogers departs for music startup

Ian Rogers, who pushed the music industry to drop DRM, is resigning as general manager for Yahoo Music to take the helm at a new startup called Topspin Media, which calls itself "the future of digital artist services."

Rogers, though his appearance will fool you, is a long-time veteran of the music business. He helped start the Internet Underground Music Archive, and worked with the Beastie Boys on Grand Royal Records. Rogers also worked on Winamp in the early days with creator Justin Frankel and built a streaming music service called Muse.Net before joining Yahoo over four years ago.

Recently, Rogers has been in the news for his vocal opposition to copyright protection that has hamstrung digital music sales until only recently. Many in the industry credit him for convincing record labels to finally give-up on digital rights management and sell music in the unprotected MP3 format. Apple was the first to offer DRM-free music from EMI, and Amazon rolled out its MP3 music store shortly thereafter.

Although Rogers hasn't specifically cited reasons for leaving Yahoo other than the promise of a new opportunity, there has been much uncertainty at the company as of late. Yahoo recently abandoned its music store, opting to partner with Real's Rhapsody instead. In addition, the company's future has been up in the air ever since Microsoft made an unsolicited bid to buy it.

Rogers will become CEO of Topspin Media, which has offices in San Francisco and his home base of Santa Monica. The idea is "to help artists earn a living through software," he says, but the company is currently in stealth mode and is not disclosing its full plans. A beta launch is forthcoming, whereupon more details will be released.

"Having started my "career" fourteen years ago working with artists and artist managers, it feels as if this is the opportunity I've been careening toward. I couldn't be more excited," Rogers wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "To say you should expect to hear a lot more from us very soon would be an understatement. As I always say, anything worth doing is worth over-doing."

Rogers' departure is a big loss for Yahoo, which is struggling to remain relevant in both search and media. Rogers said his team -- responsible for Yahoo! Media Player, Yahoo! Video and the acquisition of FoxyTunes -- was also working on "an insanely cool stealth product (I will cry when I lose VPN access because I'll lose access to my primary music listening vehicle) which I hope still sees the light of day."

As for the friends and colleagues he leaves behind at Yahoo? Rogers says he "wouldn't be surprised to find our companies working together in the not-too-distant future."

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