THE SAGA OF A MUSICAL DOT-COM IN FOUR-PART HARMONY.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JESSICA GRYPHON
32, founder, president and CEO, 1994-2000.
32, founder and chief technology officer, 1994-2001.
Currently: Code writer for astrophysics data management software.
39, chief technology officer, chief operating officer, chief executive officer, 1997-2001.
32, assistant merchandising manager and copywriter, 1999-2001.
Currently: Music critic for the Philadelphia Daily News and Tower Records clerk.
28, editor, 1997-2001.
40, director of talent and label relations, 2000-2001.
Currently: Fundraiser for Ed Rendell's gubernatorial campaign.
29, campaign production manager, marketing and promotions manager, 1997-2001.
29, editor, 1999 to 2001.
Currently: Drummer with the Bigger Lovers, PW contributing writer.
I knew there would come a day when I walked through the front door of CDNOW and the receptionist wouldn't recognize me," says Jason Olim, founder and former CEO of CDNOW, standing in the lobby of the company's headquarters in Fort Washington. That day is today.
"You're Jason Olim?" says the receptionist, squinting. "I get a lot of phone calls for you."
This is the first day Olim has set foot on the premises since resigning from the company in fall 2000, after selling CDNOW to German mega-media conglomerate Bertelsmann for $100 million in a last-minute bid to stave off bankruptcy.
CDNOW's former headquarters--once filled with 500 young, bright keyed-up employees on a mission to change the world, now resembles an abandoned ship. Last fall Bertelsmann moved a select few jobs up to New York and laid off everyone else. Only a skeletal technical crew remains, and their eyes light up when Olim strides past them.
He tries to find his old office, but it no longer exists. It has been walled off as part of a plan to subdivide and sublet the office space in hopes of defraying some of the $186,000 a month that CDNOW, or what's left of it, pays in rent and electricity.
CDNOW was started in 1994 by high-synergy twins--Jason and his brother Matt. Sequestered in their parents' basement, they worked feverishly day and night to make a virtual reality out of the simple yet revolutionary idea of selling CDs over the Internet.
In the end the Olim brothers would cash out for $9 million apiece. But for a time CDNOW was on the leading edge of the fevered dotconomy, back in the 20th century when the Internet was still young and sexy and it almost seemed possible that the entire brick and mortar economy would pull up stakes and relocate to cyberspace.
Geek Invasion 2013