Digital music has not been altogether kind to Robin Kent.
Kent was once CEO and chairman of mighty ad agency Universal McCann, but since jumping to digital music, he has had the misfortune of working for one start-up that went bust (SpiralFrog) and another that has done little more than attract controversy (Qtrax). Kent is now walking away from the sector.
On Tuesday, Kent notified associates that after three years working almost exclusively for Qtrax, he will no longer provide consulting services to the much maligned legal peer-to-peer company, which is only available in a few overseas markets. Qtrax has become something of a running joke in the music sector, as it has become notable for its many broken promises about licensing deals and failed attempts to launch in the United States.
At SpiralFrog, Kent kicked off his foray into digital-music with a bang. He managed to help attract millions in funding for the start-up, which proposed to offer song downloads free to the public and support them by selling ads. The New York Times and other publications wondered whether SpiralFrog might lure illegal file sharers away from pirate sites and someday challenge iTunes.
It never came close to meeting that potential. New York-based SpiralFrog shut down last year after racking up more than $40 million in debt and attempting to prop up traffic numbers with all kinds of iffy marketing schemes. Kent was long gone by that time. He left the company in December 2006 following a struggle for control of SpiralFrog with founder Joe Mohen.
After moving to Qtrax, Kent watched the public relations debacle that followed when founder and CEO Allan Klepfisz made claims to have licensed music from all four major labels, only to see the record companies deny there were any deals. That was followed by a string of missed U.S. launch dates and legal problems involving unpaid bills.
As for his future, Kent said in his farewell e-mail that "I'm very excited about some new ventures that I will be announcing in the not too distant future." He told CNET only that the new ventures have nothing to do with digital music.