A decade ago, drummer Gianluca Dettori had his sights set on rock 'n' roll stardom. His Turin-based band was showcased on a low-budget spoof of Italy's nationally televised Sanremo song festival. And his repertoire of songs was cheered by fans. But the band never evolved beyond cult fame and soon broke up. "We went through seven bass players. I decided it was time to do something else," Dettori says.
Now, he is marching to a different drum. As CEO and founder of Internet music purveyor Vitaminic, Dettori, 34, is making a bid to create Europe's answer to Napster and MP3.com (MPPP). Vitaminic charges its users $1 a song for downloading music--or offers subscriptions of $75 a year for unlimited downloads. "If you are in the intellectual-property business, you must respect those rights," he says.
Founded two years ago, Vitaminic is now the leading digital provider of music over the Internet in Europe. It has nine Web sites in Europe and one in the U.S. and boasts a catalog of 52,000 artists. The company has signed partnerships with Bertelsmann's BMG Entertainment, EMI Group (EMIPY), Sony Music Entertainment (SNE), Universal Music, and Warner Music. Record companies release new songs on the sites--often free of charge as a promotion tool--or the tracks can be downloaded for the $1 fee, which is split between the label and Vitaminic.
So far, Dettori is pleased with his results. Sales in the first quarter of 2001 doubled, to $1.1 million, and Vitaminic says it's on track to break even by yearend 2002. Since going public in October, Vitaminic has survived the dot-com shakeout; its stock is trading 7% above its offering price and is the best performer on Italy's Nuovo Mercato exchange for growth companies. Dettori thinks investors are behind him because "we are set up to take advantage of the natural evolution of music [distribution]," he says.
Indeed, the music-loving entrepreneur is going after deals that will allow him to sell his tunes through other outlets. He has targeted Omnitel, Italy's No. 2 wireless company, and is in talks with Nokia (NOK) about providing digital music for third-generation mobile phones. Dettori has reason to hope his dot-com career will turn out better than his rock 'n' roll one.