8/27/13: SoundEx sues SiriusXM for not paying royalties on pre-'72 recordings

Paul Maloney
August 27, 2013 - 12:55pm

SoundExchange, the record industry body that administers sound recording performance royalties for digital (Internet, satellite, and cable) radio, has filed suit against SiriusXM for what it calls "a massive underpayment" for the period between 2007 and 2012.

According to SoundExchange, SiriusXM "took a number of impermissible deductions and exemptions in calculating its royalty payments... including deducting for pre-1972 sound recordings and certain channel packages containing music."

Federal law didn't protect sound recording copyrights until 1972 (older recordings are protected by state laws). As The Wall Street Journal explains, "Because of that, Sirius has never paid to use these songs, even though such oldies account for an estimated 10% to 15% of the satellite-radio company's total airplay, according to SoundExchange Inc. Sirius sets aside the revenue generated by these pre-1972 spins before it calculates the royalties it owes rights holders."

Last year the federal government (Copyright Royalty Board) set new statutory licensing terms for SiriusXM to cover a five-year period. According to that decision, the satellite broadcaster is to pay 9% of gross revenue this year, rising to 11% by 2017. Read more here.

Part of that settlement was an amendment that explicitly allows SiriusXM to cut its SoundExchange payment by subtracting the share of revenue from pre-1972 recordings from gross-revenue. This allowance for older recordings was not explicitly part of the licensing terms for the 2007-2012 period, however. The Journal reports that SoundExchange plans to present the new regulation (which it's appealing) as "evidence that such an exclusion didn't exist before."

The suit was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. SoundExchange says it is seeking to recover "$50 to $100 million or more." We haven't yet seen a public comment from SiriusXM on the matter.

Read more in The Wall Street Journal here.

Paul Maloney
August 27, 2013 - 12:55pm

Internet radio listening was almost uniformly flat last month, rather than down, as has typically happened in Julys past. Triton Digital released the Webcast Metrics Top 20 Ranker yesterday afternoon.

Last year, double-digit percentage drops from June to July were common (using the Mon-Sun 6a-12M Domestic Streams rankings). These were generally associated with the "summer doldrums," when fewer at-work listeners are in the office. No webcaster in the Top 20 fell more than 8% June to July this year, and a few (including Cumulus, NPR Member Stations, Cox, Univision, Idobi, and others) grew month-to-month.

Perhaps Internet radio's mobile device and in-car listening growth means that while listeners may not be at their desks, they're not as "disconnected" as in the past.

What's more, several webcasters are still showing significant listening growth over the past 12 months and so far in 2013. Triton Digital's aggregate AAS (average active sessions) for the Top 20 is 21% higher than it was in July 2013 (albeit with a slightly different make-up of webcasters). Just since January 2013, Clear Channel is up 15%, Slacker up 27%, NPR Member Stations up 20% (though it's likely partially due to adding stations to this group), Univision up 84%, and Idobi up 31%. A few other top webcasters, however, are still down since January: Pandora, Cumulus, CBS, EMF, Cox, and ESPN Radio.

Triton Digital's complete Webcast Metrics Top 20 is here.

Paul Maloney
August 27, 2013 - 12:55pm

Triton Digital head of strategy Patrick Reynolds wants the growing field of digitally-delivered radio represented at the upcoming SXSW conference. His idea: a panel to discuss radio and the coming "Internet of Things." 

He's submitted a proposal for a panel at the event called "Smart Watches, Consoles and Fridges – Oh My!" SXSW panels are determined by popular vote.

The panel description reads: "As it becomes simpler for everyday devices to stream audio, this session will take a look at how music will follow us throughout our lives on devices we never would’ve mistaken for a radio in the past. In this next generation of music listening, everything from the types of services we use, content ownership, music curation and monetization are primed for disruption."

You can see more about it, and vote for it, at the SXSW Panel Picker site here. (h/t to Mark Ramsey, more from him today here)

Paul Maloney
August 27, 2013 - 12:55pm

Consultant Mark Ramsey feels strongly about "responsive design" for the web -- that is, building web sites with optimized viewing and navigation across a wide range of devices (PC, tablet, phone, etc.). So strongly, that he's redesigned his MarkRamseyMedia.com to adhere to responsive design principles (we haven't put it through rigorous testing, but we're sure it works).

But it's left him wondering if perhaps radio's failure to do the same means broadcasters "aren't serious about the Internet."

He cites Federated Media and NPR as two big exceptions. But, "if your radio brand has a website that’s intended to be pinched and squeezed on mobile devices, you are inviting your audience to go someplace else next time," he wrote. "And if you turn them off on the web it’s that much more difficult to turn them on on the air."

Read more from Ramsey here.