Player Profile: BMG Entertainment puts Conroy on Net firing line

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With internet music companies such as Napster getting plenty of attention, record companies are turning to strong executives to help them face the music and stand up to Internet insurgents.

BMG Entertainment is one company that has put its key executive front and center: Kevin Conroy, who had been senior VP-worldwide marketing, is now president of new technology and chief marketing officer.

BMG -- through Mr. Conroy -- was one of the first labels to strike a distribution deal with, settling a copyright infringement dispute. MP3 had been delivering music by artists from BMG and other record labels for free.


BMG also is talking to Napster. BMG and 17 other music companies sued Napster because it offers free downloadable music.

"The issue isn't whether you have access to free music but to create awareness for our new artists," Mr. Conroy, 40, said. "We have been working for some time on providing more resources to our labels to better support our artists."

With or without Napster, BMG is looking ahead to developing its own Napster-like technology, in which consumers share music on their PC hard drives.

"Involving fans in selling and rewarding them is an important part of our plans for digital downloading," Mr. Conroy said.

Even before his promotion to BMG's top Internet honcho, Mr. Conroy was instrumental in spearheading BMG's online presence, which includes more than 30 wholly owned music and lifestyle Web sites, such as Artistsdirect, and

Most recently Mr. Conroy struck a deal with, but perhaps his biggest effort is with, which BMG co-owns with Universal Music Corp.

While Internet issues are the hot button of the day, plain-jane corporate sponsorships are still a major marketing push for Mr. Conway. BMG has done deals in recent years with American Airlines, America Online and Visa USA.

For the Sundance Film Festival in January, Mr. Conroy conceived the "Sundance Music Studio" to showcase BMG artists. "We brought them the idea to create some live entertainment," he said, "and we brought in Intel Corp., American Airlines, Microsoft Corp. to underwrite this event."

"We are going to do this on an annual basis," Mr. Conroy added. "Every major film festival around the world wants us to do this as well -- Toronto and Berlin [film festivals] are next."


Perhaps Mr. Conroy's biggest push is in integrated marketing. In the past, Mr. Conroy said, one person would try to do many disparate marketing jobs. Now, he has established separate teams for online marketing, new media marketing, partnership marketing, DVD projects and TV specials.

Mr. Conroy also established something called Priority Artists Marketing Group, which focuses on marketing efforts for about a dozen of BMG's biggest artists.

"This approach doesn't exist anywhere else," said Mr. Conroy. A recent marketing meeting for Christina Aguilera, one of BMG's Priority Artists, yielded a strategic plan that included a network special.

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