That's not just a fancy name for a DJ.
Wincing at the legal sour notes hit by innovators such as software maker Napster and music Web site MP3.com, a growing number of Internet start-ups are hiring executives dedicated to bringing harmony to their online music efforts.
"It seems to be a prevailing, very chic music title in the industry," said 30-year music veteran Eddie Lambert.
Lambert should know. This week he announced he is leaving his job as senior director of music licensing at EMI-Capitol Music to take the newly created CMO slot at start-up SmashCast. Others who have taken the title include Thomas Ryan, co-founder of Cductive (acquired by EMusic), and Rick Riccibono of Supertracks, an enabler of digital distribution.
Of course, job titles can be deceiving. In a world where janitors aspire to be sanitary engineers, it can be helpful to take a closer look, especially when it comes to a job description created by the quirky Net economy.
Consider digital encoding firm Loudeye, where chief executive and founder Martin Tobias also carries the futuristic mantle of Minister of Order and Reason. And then there's business-to-business consultancy FutureNext, where checks go out each month to the Vice President of Happiness and the Lady of Perpetual Programming.
"You get waves of attempts to change descriptions of jobs," said Peter Felix, president of the Association of Executive Search Consultants, a trade group for recruiters. "Titles get fixed to try to describe more precisely what people do. Some are buzzwords, but others clearly reflect an evolution in the marketplace."
So what about CMO?
Dan Hobin, founder and CEO of SmashCast, ticked off a list of reasons that make the position a must-have for Internet companies. He said companies need someone to address lawsuits and bad publicity for companies accused of facilitating piracy, as well as the complexities of licensing music legally for use online.
Hobin's concerns are perhaps more remarkable given the fact that his company isn't interested in giving away MP3 music downloads.
SmashCast offers a product that lets people put together "Web movies"--basically compilations of animation and digital photos that tell a story with musical accompaniment if desired. The company has struck partnerships with online photo companies such as Xing.com and plans to launch other services in the coming weeks.
Despite being one step removed from the music business, Hobin couldn't be happier with his new CMO.
"I bet Napster wishes they had one," he said. "We had a couple of well-paid lawyers who suggested this."