6/12/13: Is Pandora "radio" now? It just bought a station

Paul Maloney
June 12, 2013 - 1:50pm

Whether it will actually gain the cost-saving advantages it says it hopes to, or it's really just about making a (legal) point: Pandora has purchased an FM radio station.

According to a filing late yesterday, leading webcaster Pandora announced yesterday its acquisition of KXMZ-FM/Radid City, SD (market #255). The reason: Pandora hopes to qualify for the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC) license for the use of copyright song compositions as to broadcasters.

Pandora is currently in a legal battle with ASCAP, the performance rights organization (PRO) that licenses copyright song compositions. (Usually in this newsletter we discuss sound recording copyrights -- administered by SoundExchange and nearly always owned by record labels. This is different.) Pandora accuses (and has filed a motion to this effect) ASCAP and music publishers of discriminating against it (and other webcasters) by withdrawing from the ASCAP license digital performance rights, for the purpose of "holding out" for higher fees.

ASCAP operates under an "antitrust consent decree" -- since it represents such a large segment of the music industry's publishing holdings, it needs to adhere to government guidelines in the way it operates. Pandora says ASCAP is violating the terms of that consent decree.

Pandora alleges the licensing deal made in January 2012 between the RMLC and ASCAP (as well as BMI, another PRO) discriminates against pureplay webcasters, because the deal gives AM/FM radio (including their Internet properties, e.g. Clear Channel and iHeartRadio) preferential licensing terms.

So, by buying a radio station in South Dakota (for $600k), Pandora wants to qualify for that same RMLC license. Is Pandora serious -- or is it about making a (snarky) point (which, given Pandora's economics, it could afford to do for $600k)? This likely tongue-in-cheek comment from a Pandora op-ed may be telling: 

"We look forward to broadcasting our personalized experience to the community in Rapid City, an area where over 42,000 residents already use Pandora," wrote Pandora assistant general counsel Christopher Harrison in The Hill's Congress Blog yesterday (here). Billboard also covers this story here.

Paul Maloney
June 12, 2013 - 1:50pm

Clear Channel has struck yet another "on-air revenue share in exchange for decreased streaming royalty deal" with a sound recording rights holder, but this time, it isn't a music label group. It's Fleetwood Mac. The band.

CCM&E announced today its agreement with legendary recording artists Fleetwood Mac that will pay the band when Clear Channel radio stations play sound recordings owned by the band. In exchange, Clear Channel will nearly certainly enjoy a significant discount on its online royalty obligation.

The press release doesn't explicitly say, but it's likely that this deal applies only to the music on the band's new EP, "Extended Play." The band's other recordings, including legendary albums like "Rumours," "Tusk," and the self-titled 1975 album on which members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks made their debut with the band, are likely still the property of the record labels for which they were recorded.

The new EP features the first recording of new Fleetwood Mac music in over a decade. Note that it was released by LMJS Productions (for Lindsey, Mick, John, Stevie).

The independent labels who have similar agreements with Clear Channel include Big Machine Label Group, Glassnote Entertainment Group, eOne, DashGo, Robbins Entertainment, Naxos, rpm Entertainment, Wind-up Records, Fearless Records, Zojak Records and Dualtone Records.

Paul Maloney
June 12, 2013 - 1:50pm

Streaming music service Rhapsody has launched a new "companion app," focused on artist touring and selling concert tickets.

The new app combines the company's on-demand music streaming service with an easy way for listeners to find live events and purchase tickets.

Rhapsody president Jon Irwin keynoted RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas in April. He spoke of the importance of connecting artists and listeners in meaningful ways, and going beyond simply delivering music in the effort to create "the Ultimate Stream."

This is Rhapsody's second "companion app," after the Songmatch app that identifies music (like Shazam) and can automatically add it to Rhapsody playlists. The new Rhapsody Concerts app was released for iOS today, with Android to follow.

Our recap of Irwin's RAIN Summit West keynote speech is here, and you can hear complete audio here. CNet reports on the new Rhapsody Concerts app here.

Paul Maloney
June 12, 2013 - 1:50pm

New Jersey's WFMU and Santa Monica's KCRW alike "have managed to weather a storm of media consolidation and survived an internet revolution that has completely altered the way we consume entertainment over several decades -- particularly in recent years, as unique voices have disappeared almost entirely from the radio dial."

That's from an Engadget.com piece on the two stations (along with a video segment), and it's a great read about two stations still creating wonderful radio in the digital age.

"It may well be the stations' willingness to embrace technology that has allowed them to survive -- and, arguably, even thrive -- while so many of their peers have simply faded away," the site's Brian Heater wrote.

Read (and watch) about WFMU's online Free Music Archive, KCRW's efforts in digitizing their vast library, and more, here.