AOL Music Shuttered, Staff Laid Off [Updated]

AOL has shuttered its AOL Music division and laid off its staff, according to pink-slipped employees on Twitter., a rock-music news site under the AOL Music banner, announced suddenly on Thursday afternoon that it was shutting down. Minutes later, it said in a tweet that the entire music editorial division of the media giant, which owns The Huffington Post, was closing, too.

AOL Music operates the main homepage along with the sites The Boot and Tour Tracker, which appear to be on the chopping block.

Dan Reilly, the site’s editor, said on Twitter that he was “sitting in an HR meeting right now, trying to negotiate keeping our computers for a few more days.”

The number of employees laid off remains unclear.

Three AOL spokeswomen did not immediately respond to repeated calls from FishbowlNY requesting comment.

The move comes as AOL has consolidated some of its editorial properties under The Huffington Post Media Group, which devoured previous AOL brands like Politics Daily, PopEater and StyleList. AOL acquired the blog goliath in February 2011 for $315 million in cash.

In 2008, Billboard magazine called AOL Music the “top online music destination,” praising the leadership of AOL Entertainment’s then-senior vice president and general manager Mike Rich. But things began to crumble after Rich took a voluntary buyout in December 2009, before heading over to become the chief operating officer of ad-network InteractiveOne less than a year later.

Spinner, which began in the 1990s as an internet radio service, became AOL Music’s flagship site, offering daily downloads, exclusive interviews, album streams and live performances. AOL purchased the site, along with the software developer Nullsoft, in 1999 for about $400 million in stock-for-stock transactions.

“Both [companies] are solid acquisitions,” Mark Mooradian, analyst with Jupiter Communications, told CNET at the time. “If you look at AOL’s acquisitions, first and foremost they look at them as a customer acquisition play. In the big picture, AOL is acquiring Internet radio and online audio listeners.”

But as bigger competitors like Spotify and Pandora have muscled their way to the top, it left little room for the AOL’s struggling music business — likely leading to the layoffs now. And The Huffington Post’s heavily-trafficked entertainment vertical contains coverage of celebrity musicians, whose names are more likely to drive web hits, such as Snoop Lion, David Bowie and Rihanna.

Spinner, meanwhile, was offering free tracks from Cobalt Crane and interviews with soul singer Charles Bradley — which sadly don’t sing to the tune of top-paying advertisers.

FishbowlNY has reached out to Reilly for an interview, but has yet to hear back. By the look of things, he’s got a date with a bottle that might go well with a good Cursive listening session.

Update at 4:50 p.m. ET: AOL Radio’s official Twitter feed has confirmed the layoffs, too.


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