Digital Top Stories

Over ambition, bad deals and a terrible name killed Beyond Oblivion, say ex-Boinc-ers

By | Published on Monday 5 March 2012

Beyond Oblivion

When Nokia Comes With Music-style digital music service Beyond Oblivion shut up shop somewhat suddenly over the Christmas break without ever going live, its top man Adam Kidron blamed the challenges of “co-ordinating the diversity of an ecosystem” for his big project’s demise. But it seems quite a few of his former colleagues are blaming Kidron, for over-spending, over-committing, ignoring the music publishers, and for embracing a terrible brand name.

Or at least that’s what a fascinating investigation by Evolver FM into the demise of the multi-million dollar digital music disaster zone reckons. Citing various anonymous sources, most former Beyond Oblivion execs seem to agree that it was ultimately over-the-top advances promised to the major record companies that caused the sudden collapse of the digital start up, but they blame Kidron for agreeing to such payments, rather than the rights owners for making such big demands.

The advances – that would have totalled $150 million – were so high because Kidron wanted to go global at launch, and securing worldwide deals from the majors for an unproven and complicated new business model required big cash incentives.

With just $77 million in start-up capital, over half of which was dependent on meeting various targets, to go live Kidron needed to secure big commitments in terms of guarantees from the technology partners that he wanted to sell his service – the plan being that the costs of the software-with-content platform would be morphed into the price of smartphone and tablet devices, so it appeared to be free to the end user.

But with the big consumer electronics firms engaged in a price war, already eating up profit margins, no one was willing to commit to fully subsidising the app for their customers, despite some key gadget makers having initially expressed an interest in the Beyond Oblivion business model. Having pushed so hard that this service would be global from the off, it was hard for Kidron to subsequently backtrack on that promise in order to re-negotiate lower advances with the majors.

Add to this the fact that – while the Sony and Warner record companies had signed up, and Universal was reportedly close to signing – no deals had been done with any of the music publishers; that the much delayed launch meant that fees being paid to retained consultants and PR reps were out of control; and that everyone bar Kidron hated the brand name expensively devised by marketing consultants for the planned consumer launch – Boinc – it’s perhaps no wonder the whole thing came crashing down overnight, while most staff were under the impression everything was moving smoothly towards an albeit delayed launch.

Obviously those who lost their jobs in the wake of the Boinc collapse, and those likely to go unpaid as the firm’s bankruptcy works its way through the motions, aren’t going to be the biggest fans of Beyond Oblivion’s former top man, and it’s notable even the most bitter former Boincers admit there was an air of genius about the champion charmer Kidron. Though they also reckon foolish ambitions to be the next Steve Jobs out to “save the music industry” resulted in a string of bad decisions, which ultimately led to the Boincer-In-Chief losing the trust of some key financial backers.

Whatever, Evolver FM’s Beyond Oblivion dissection makes for fascinating reading.