Digital music has become increasingly popular over the years, and now it looks like new methods of digital music distribution are finally starting to pay off. SoundExchange, which processes royalty payments for online music streams, confirmed on Monday that it has paid artists and record companies a total of $1 billion since being founded in 2000. “The way the industry is going, it is about multiple revenue streams, not just one,” Michael Huppe, SoundExchange’s president, said in an interview with The New York Times. The company’s quarterly payments to artist and record companies exceeded $100 million for the first time this year. SoundExchange collects money from Sirius XM Radio, Pandora and other forms of Internet radio, and then pays royalties to both artists and their labels. While Internet streaming royalties have increased, they still remain a relatively small percentage of music royalties as a whole. More →
We’ve covered Pandora’s troubles before here on BGR and while the custom internet radio provider struggles to strike a workable deal with the RIAA, subscriptions just aren’t covering the bills apparently. Pandora, for those unaware, is a fantastic streaming music service that creates custom stations based on the tonal qualities of songs in its extensive catalog. By way of Twitter, Pandora clarified the fact that it has implemented audio ads in its guest streams. In other words, non-paying Pandora users may hear audio advertisements while subscribers ($36/year) will continue to enjoy unlimited music without interruption. No, we’re not talking about anything close to terrestrial radio’s music to ad ratio of 1:1 or worse – just a quick word from a sponsor every now and then. The move is a logical one of course, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Pandora ends up increasing its subscription charges as well. Users happy about the addition of audio commercials can send thank you notes directly to SoundExchange and the RIAA. Those of you unhappy about the news, will it stop you from using the service – or push you to subscribe?
Talk about great reads. Muxtape founder Justin Ouellette finally let the cat out of the bag today and published a lengthy report of his recent trials and tribulations. For outsiders looking in, reading about dealings with the unmitigated disaster that is the music industry is like a guilty pleasure. Rage seems to build with each passing paragraph and one can’t help but think, “are they really this stupid?” Ouellette’s recount of his experiences in recent history fits the mold perfectly. The behind the scenes plan for Muxtape was anything but ill-intentioned; Ouelette had some pretty big ideas and spent a great deal of time reaching out to labels in an effort to move music consumption forward in a very symbiotic manner. In fact in the midst of an extended series of meetings with major labels that seemed to be progressing, albeit slowly, the RIAA struck without warning and dropped an axe that would force Muxtape to go offline. It registered a complaint with Amazon Web Services, Muxtape’s host, that required Muxtape to dump a launrdy list of content within one business day or risk having his data deleted and servers shut down. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ouelette has plans to relaunch as a service geared exclusively toward bands:
The new Muxtape will allow bands to upload their own music and offer an embeddable player that works anywhere on the web, in addition to the original muxtape format. Bands will be able to assemble an attractive profile with simple modules that enable optional functionality such as a calendar, photos, comments, downloads and sales, or anything else they need.
This is a far cry from the original Muxtape model and it will likely have a much more difficult climb in terms of being widely adopted. Here at BGR, we’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the relaunch and we wish Ouellette all the success in the world. As for the RIAA and music industry in general, it is becoming increasingly difficult to support any means of music distribution that puts money in their pockets. The dilemma of course is in order to financially support the bands you enjoy, you are also feeding the hand that bites. Talk about a catch 22. Whatever, music industry. Keep doing things your way because it seems to really be working out well for you. We’re sure people will be lining up in droves to buy music on microSD cards. You know, just like how we all went running out to get their hands on Ringles. That went over really well.
Do yourself a favor and hit the read link.
It looks like the big guys aren’t the only ones feeling the wrath of the RIAA these days, and it’s only bound to get worse. Muxtape, a service that allows users to upload music from their personal libraries to create an online mixtape, currently services less than 90,000 unique visitors per month according to Compete. That won’t keep it under the RIAA’s radar it would appear, as the service went down yesterday with the note “Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA” on its homepage. A post on the Muxtape blog provides the following message:
No artists or labels have complained. The site is not closed indefinitely. Stay tuned.
It’s funny; rather than embrace this newer wave of online music providers, it appears that labels and the RIAA are intent on destroying these emerging technologies and completely eliminating new revenue streams that have the potential to become massive. By putting a fair royalty scheme in place, the RIAA stands to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars in the short-term and this figure would only increase as internet radio stations and other online music sites continue to gain momentum. Instead, the RIAA is trying to run these sites into the ground in order to maintain the current power structure – even if that means losing out on all of this new money. Users of sites like Muxtape aren’t going to replace their “free” listening habits with purchases, they’re going to find other off-shore sites with similar functionality. Apparently for the RIAA, “nothing” is better than “something” when that “something” helps illustrate just how useless the current record label model is these days.
As traffic to Pandora continues to climb at an impressive rate, far more steep than that of competitor Last.fm as seen in the chart above, the popular custom internet radio provider may be a breath away from closing its doors. Why, you might ask? The answer is not very far from being obvious these days. Wherever there is an emerging revolution in the realm of music consumption, loved by many yet still on the brink of defeat; the RIAA is never far from the scene. Pandora’s current woes fit the mold precisely. Pandora usage is at all all-time high and usage increased by almost two million visits per month from June to July alone, yet elevated royalty rates are making it nearly impossible for the company to stay afloat. After last year’s decision that internet radio provider per-song royalty rates would double there has been an ongoing battle between providers and SoundExchange, an unincorporated division of the RIAA tasked with collecting royalties from digital providers such as satellite and internet radio. The decision determined that the rate would increase incrementally from .08¢ per song per listener in 2006 to .19¢ per song per listener by 2010. While tiny fractions of a penny seem insignificant, they add up quickly. Pandora projects that it will pay out about $17 million this year, or a staggering 70% of its revenue, in royalties. Long story short, it is losing money. The problem is even worse for smaller internet radio providers, where increased royalty rates are expected to amount to between 100% and 300% of annual revenues. Translation: By way of SoundExchange and lawmaker support, the RIAA would rather wipe internet radio off the map with outrageous royalty rates than find a fair way to make some money for its clients (labels and, theoretically, musicians). Why is that? There is no way for us to say but as per-song performance royalties are positioned to wipe internet radio off the map, it should be noted that terrestrial radio pays no such fees.
Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora, had this to say to the Washington Post:
We’re funded by venture capital. They’re not going to chase a company whose business model has been broken. So if it doesn’t feel like its headed towards a solution, we’re done.