by Kim M. Bayne
Larry Rosen knows how to capitalize on technology. Long before most people knew the Internet existed, the former professional musician put his stamp on an industry model destined to evolve from vinyl to compact disc. While president of GRP Records, he embraced CDs as the medium of choice. It paid off big, with GRP's albums placing consistently at the top of Billboard's jazz chart for five years.
Since his early days as a drummer, Mr. Rosen has experienced most aspects of the music industry. As a result, he finds he's always pushing the envelope. "It's fun to be in a place where no one has been before," he said.
After selling GRP in 1990, Mr. Rosen stayed on as president for the next five years. Then he built a 100-foot boat and sailed off to South America with his scuba-diving partner and wife of 33 years, Hazel. Three months and a trip around the Caribbean later, he returned.
Looking for a way to reach consumers and sell products, he soon recognized the Internet's potential as a way to build an audience and sell products. "It sounded like, wow, this is the place where I want to be," he said.
So, he and two partners each put $1 million into a pool to explore music, the Internet and investment opportunities.
Mr. Rosen took a fancy to Brooklyn-based CD-ROM developer N2K after hiring the company to develop a CD-ROM catalog for GRP. So he acquired them.
But to fulfill his vision of creating content-rich Internet communities that also offer search and commerce capabilities, Mr. Rosen needed more resources.
So he purchased Telebase, the original creators of Music Boulevard, for its knowledge on database aggregation, search technology and commercial applications on the Web. He then merged it with N2K.
Mr. Rosen never doubted that N2K, now 250-employees strong, would be a success. "I have the experience of starting a company from the ground floor," said Mr. Rosen, referring to GRP which he sold to MCA Records for $40 million.
"The second time around, you want to make it bigger than the first one," he said. And he's not far off.
Media Metrix named N2K's Music Boulevard as one of the fastest growing music sites on the Web in 1997. "If anything, the Internet is growing faster than we thought it would grow," he said.