Songbird, music player that wants to do everything, loses CEO

Songbird , the San Francisco company offering a free Web tool to discover, play and manage music across any device, is looking for a new CEO as it focuses on making money.

Robert Lord, who founded the company, was removed this last week, and replaced by Mark Jung, who was chairman and now takes over as interim chief executive.

The three-year-old company’s music player is still under development. Jung said the company has enormous potential, more than all the popular free sites such as Pandora, imeem or Last.fm, and more even than iTunes — namely because it wants to be open and let you do pretty much anything with your music from anywhere.

We first wrote about Songbird after it launched, back then as a pretty slick browser that could search for any music on your desktop and archive it nicely in a library. Songbird works with Mozilla Firefox, as an open platform. It lets developers use it to integrate Songbird as a customized media player into their own websites. By working within Firefox, the company avoids having to force consumers to download and install applications.

While Songbird is ready to use, the product is still being developed. Among other things, the company is working on ways to fully support iTunes, for example to let you transfer content back and forth from Songbird to your iPod.

Lord’s strength is in technology and he’ll remain as chief technology officer. Jung said the company is looking for a strong “operations” leader who can also cut business deals across a number of channels where Songbird brings revenue, from advertising to music e-commerce, sponsorships to licensing deals. Lord was forced out last week, according to sources. Jung wouldn’t comment on whether Lord was pushed out, but did say there has been a CEO search for several months. He said the move to find a new CEO is crucial because it comes at a time that the company is looking to raise more capital, and needs to show investors it is serious about making money. Even early on, some criticized the company for moving too slowly.

Jung said Songbird has received 6,000 independent submissions to its code-base from third-party developers.

The company has raised at least $8 million from Sequoia Capital and Atlas Ventures over the past two years. Notably, the company was early to trim its workforce, taking actions to cut a few workers during the summer before the economic downturn set in. It’s one of the few Sequoia-backed companies that hasn’t  laid off a significant portion of its staff after October, when Sequoia held its now-famous RIP meeting .

Jung was previously chief operating officer of Fox Interactive Media (FIM) overseeing properties like MySpace, IGN Entertainment and FoxSports.com.


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