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Ex-Facebook exec takes helm at Project Playlist

Owen Van Natta has formally accepted the CEO position at the start-up, according to AllThingsD. Unfortunately, social-music sites are a dime a dozen.

There's finally an end to the speculation over what former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta would do next: he's taken the job as CEO of a site called Project Playlist, according to Kara Swisher of AllThingsD.

He had already been an investor in the music discovery company, and there have been blog-circulated rumor about his new gig for several weeks now.

The move comes shortly after Van Natta withdrew his offer to take the CEO position at MySpace's new music venture. All signs now point to MTV exec Courtney Holt to take that job, but no formal announcement has been made.

AllThingsD confirms what many had figured: Van Natta, in his quest for a CEO position, wasn't interested in taking a job at a venture run by the News Corp.-owned MySpace. It's not quite a start-up, no matter how trendy its office space might be.

Start-up Project Playlist has snagged a hefty round of financing led by former AOL exec Bob Pittman's invested firm, Pilot Group--probably somewhere between $18 million and $20 million, Swisher wrote.

The New York-based Pilot Group stays low-key, but it already has a stake in a growing social-media site, Buzznet, which focuses on music and other pop-culture content and has an additional investment from Universal Music Group. Pilot Group was the majority owner of DailyCandy when the women's events newsletter site sold to Comcast for about $125 million earlier this year.

As for Project Playlist, it's a lot like Imeem or the ill-fated Muxtape: members can build playlists and embed them across the Web. The site was sued by the RIAA back in April. Like Muxtape, it's fairly stripped-down, but a ticker at the top of the page says that over 38 million playlists have been created.

Van Natta stepped down from his role at Facebook amid, naturally, plenty of rumors. He left the company in February as chief revenue officer, after having previously been chief operating officer, which some bloggers speculated was a demotion. When he left, he made it clear that he wanted a CEO post somewhere--which set off even more speculation that Van Natta had wanted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's job, and left when it looked like there was no chance the young founder would step aside. That's unconfirmed, of course.

The issue with a company like Project Playlist? Aside from its RIAA woes, which are pretty much protocol in the music business, the "music discovery" niche is clogged beyond belief. There's Imeem, Pandora, iLike and its popular Facebook app, and (owned by CBS Interactive, which publishes CNET News). Even Apple's iTunes now has its "Genius" discovery sidebar, and MySpace Music is a high-profile new entry in the field. Even Van Natta's old company, Facebook, is rumored to be interested in doing more when it comes to music.

"Discovery around music is exploding on the Internet," Van Natta told AllThingsD when he spoke to Swisher about his new gig. "And the company that does the best job of taking advantage of that is really going to be huge."

Well, let's hope he picked the right one.