These days Judy Estrin has one foot in Silicon Valley and another in Digital Hollywood.
The chief executive of EvntLive, an online music site co-founded by her son, and a board member since 1998 of the Walt Disney Company, Estrin is an engineer by training and serial entrepreneur by trade. She made her name in communications, forming a string of companies, at least one of which was acquired by Cisco Systems, which made her its chief technology officer from 1998 to 2000.
Estrin talked about the outlook for online media, women in engineering, and more at the EvntLive office in Redwood City, Calif.
EE Times: How is running a web company different from your past communications startups?
Judy Estrin: The biggest difference for me is this is the first consumer business I’ve been involved in running. How you invest and market is different. The thing that’s the same is that when you create a new market there is still the evangelizing, getting people to try new things and being patient as the market picks up.
EE Times: What’s the outlook for sites like EvntLive selling music events online?
Estrin: The market is still very early. Mostly, artists use this as a fan engagement tool, but over time there will be more pay-per-view. It’s going to take time.
It’s a flywheel. You get more people using the site. That attracts more artists. Then people realize the quality of the experience, and some artists will try charging. You will never see the kind of ticket prices you see for in-person events, but if people pay $100 for a live concert and its $5.99 online, at some point you will get there. Now it’s mostly free concerts.
EE Times: I noticed at a recent SMPTE event at Stanford there’s still a big gulf between Silicon Valley and Hollywood technologists. They are still debating issues around digital rights.
Estrin: We’ve come a long way, but I’m not sure we talk the same language yet. The fault is on both sides.
Early on, Silicon Valley wanted to ignore rights, but that’s not so true today. The answer is not to ignore the rights issues. There’s a reason IP exists: Someone has spent a lot of money developing that IP.
EE Times: How is this playing out in the music industry?
Estrin: The music industry hurts itself because it’s even more complex than TV or movie rights. There are so many stakeholders to navigate through to determine who owns what streaming and publishing rights. We understand that and have built relationships, but it takes time, and if someone wants to prototype or try something new it’s hard. Innovation flows by being able to try things.
I wish there was more of a discussion about this in the music industry. People are so protective of their piece of the pie. They fear any work on streamlining the process might mean they don’t get paid, but it might actually mean they get paid more.