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merrill040108.pngAt first, I thought this was yet another April Fool’s joke coming out of Google today, so I held back on publishing. One of the company’s top engineering vice presidents, Douglas Merrill, is leaving for a new job at troubled music label EMI.

But I’ve confirmed with one reliable source that Merrill is indeed leaving Google, and a bunch of others say they’ve confirmed the EMI angle.

Merrill has been with Google since 2003, when he joined as its senior director of information systems, and among other things led its initial public offering effort in 2004. He’s more recently held “direct line accountability for all internal engineering and support worldwide,” according to his corporate bio.

The interesting part of this story — besides the fact that yet another very rich, senior Google executive is leaving — is that EMI itself has been busy experimenting with giving away its music and living off advertising revenue. Today, it and other music labels are announcing that they’re working with a Nordic telecom company, TDC, to provide its Danish subscribers with their music content for free. EMI is apparently hoping to make money from advertising on its mobile portal that TDC subscribers will have access to.

So, Merrill knows from the inside out how Google has succeeded through giving away products for free. Maybe he can instill a Google mentality in EMI’s approach to figuring out how to survive. As this CNET article details, total revenue numbers at EMI have dropped from $14.3 billion in 2000 to $10 billion last year.

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