Lime Wire CEO Talks Music Industry & Company’s Future

    February 9, 2009
    Chris Crum

Lime WireI recently got in touch with George Searle, CEO of Lime Wire, who owns one of the most widely used file sharing services of the same name. Even if you have never used LimeWire, you have no doubt read about it, as it has been mentioned frequently throughout the years when illegal file sharing lawsuits are reported on.

A while back Lime Wire began making big moves to establish its reputation as a truly legitimate player in the online music industry. They have the LimeWire Store, as well as the recently announced more social version of the file-sharing service, LimeWire 5. 

Chris Crum: Obviously file-sharing programs are often shed in a negative light with constant legal issues from the RIAA, MPAA, etc. What’s the picture looking like on that front these days? Has the tension eased, strengthened, or remained basically the same?

George Searle, Lime Wire CEO

George Searle: I am encouraged, on the one hand, to see the music industry move away from their failed strategy of suing individuals, but discouraged, on the other, that their focus has not yet shifted from limiting customers. Having ISPs police and disconnect file sharers will do nothing to help the industry’s position; nor will it put a single penny into the pockets of artists, songwriters and publishers.  The challenge of making money in the digital world will require a more thoughtful process and sensitive, respectful, approach to users.  Lime Wire would like to help the music industry introduce a full range of commercial services to monetize file sharing and harness, rather than alienate, music consumers.

Comedy Central CC: Lime Wire has been forming partnerships such as with The Orchard, IODA, Redeye Distribution, Nettwerk Music Group, IRIS and even Comedy Central. Are there any other big name content partners in the mix at this point?

GS:  We’re very encouraged by our current partnerships, and are working with some of the best here.  We continue to expand these partnerships and work more closely with the partners we currently have. The total number of songs available in the LimeWire Store is now over two million, and greater success will attract further partnerships.  As we’ve said, we look forward to the day we can work together with the entire music industry to help expand their reach and deliver more to the consumer. We’re optimistic that this will happen

LimeWire Store

CC: Can you talk a little bit about your strategy for getting content partners on board, when the nature of file sharing programs in general have been such a thorn in the sides of these organizations for so long?

GS: What’s happening in peer-to-peer and at LimeWire right now represents a unique opportunity for the music industry.  Together, we have a historic opportunity to build a new future of file sharing that compensates rights holders while maintaining the aspects of technology and community that make P2P attractive.  Our users initiate over 5 billion searches every month.  That’s 5 billion opportunities to reach fans with the right message, the right product and the right price.  We think that P2P can simultaneously support a number of services, including promotion, ad supported, sponsored, subscription, and a la carte paid downloads of music; and have had several promising meetings with Labels to develop a model that will compensate both the Labels and their artists.

CC: How critical of a role do the recently introduced social networking elements of Lime Wire play in future of the company?

GS:  P2P has always been inherently social, and with 5.0 we are bringing social to the forefront.  One exciting feature of 5.0 is that it allows the user to easily set up personal sharing networks on a file-by-file, friend-by-friend basis.  For example, you can share vacation photos with a limited circle of friends or work documents with your colleagues, and discover new files from other members of your social circle. All of this is built off your existing, trusted social contacts through Jabber compatible services like Gmail or LiveJournal.

Thanks to Mr. Searle for the interview. Read my interview with Justin Ouellette, CEO of Muxtape, another important player in the online music industry.