RAIN 10/28: SX, artist unions protest as Sirius aims to license music directly from labels

Michael Schmitt
October 28, 2011 - 11:30am

Buzz surrounding SiriusXM's direct licensing efforts has heated up lately, with new statements from artist labor groups and SoundExchange.

In early August news broke that SiriusXM was seeking to license the sound recordings it plays directly from the copyright owners (record labels). Direct licenses would not only cut SoundExchange out, but copyright owners would not have the same legal obligation to share the royalty revenue with performers that's required under the "statutory" license created by the DMCA (RAIN coverage here).


Thus, SiriusXM could reduce the fees they pay for music and the copyright owners, no longer obligated to share with performers, could keep more.

Two labor groups -- the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFL) -- have come out against the move, calling it "blatantly anti-artist." SiriusXM is trying to "lower the rates for music," the groups state (here). The Recording Academy's president/CEO Neil Portnow also sent a letter to members encouraging independent labels not to directly license with SiriusXM.


SoundExchange also posted a message to its website. The non-profit royalty collection agency points out that Music Reports Inc. (MRI) -- the company SiriusXM is using to try to obtain direct licensing deals -- aims to obtain licenses "at the lowest possible cost." SoundExchange openly pushes in the other direction, the post states (here).

SiriusXM currently pays 7.5% of its revenues to SoundExchange for satellite radio performance royalties (it pays additional, different royalties for its Internet radio broadcasts, more here). In 2012 the rate increases to 8% of revenues. (By comparison, pureplay webcasters like Pandora pay the greater of 25% of total revenues or, in 2011, $0.00102 per listener, per song; more here). Such rates are set by the Copyright Royalty Board.

Paul Maloney
October 28, 2011 - 11:30am

Arbitron released the results of an informal study it conducted on radio stations' use of social media and stations' social media engagement with listeners. The bottom line: radio largely approaches social media -- which should be a platform for "engagement" and genuine "back-and-forth" between station and listeners -- as another form of "broadcasting" (the "we talk, you listen" model).Arbitron social media chart

For the study, Arbitron randomly chose 15 stations (6 in markets 1-50, 5 in 51-149, 4 in 150+) of various formats and monitored their activities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs (apparently, radio's abandoned MySpace) over a recent Thursday-Saturday. As it turns out, almost all stations in every format are on Facebook, but not necessarily Twitter, YouTube and MySpace. Interestingly, the study found the average station has a Facebook audience equal to roughly 7% of its cume (this does vary, however, by genre... small cume stations often have highly-engaged and loyal listeners, e.g. sports talk). [See the chart below-left. We're not sure of the difference between the "7% of cume" figure cited in the study's text, and the "11%" average that appears in the chart.]

The study revealed that nearly three-quarters of stations surveyed didn’t post a single Twitter or Facebook update over the weekend. More than half the stations didn’t manage to elicit a listener response on their Facebook wall for the entire three-day survey period. And for what engagement with listeners there was, almost 80% of those exchanges originated with the station.

More than 1 in every 4 radio station Facebook posts were plugs for contests and giveaways, but those posts generated only 10% of the comments stations got from listeners. "The lack of comments is indicative that these types of post are not actually stirring people’s interests or engaging them," says Arbitron. "To click on the 'like' button takes little effort and is a short term strategy, after all who doesn’t 'like' free stuff?" 

Arbitron social media chartBetter for actually eliciting listener response were "question" posts ("Who are you rooting for in the World Series?" or "Do you support or oppose the 'Occupy' movement?"). While only 1 in 5 station Facebook posts asked listeners for their opinion, more than half of listener posts on station Facebook pages were in response to these questions. Arbitron does offer the caution, however, "Stations need to ensure they aren’t just pushing out questions though and that they are actually engaging in the conversation."  

Arbitron concludes, "Stations must engage their listener. Engage doesn’t mean to push out a message from a social media platform and then count the responses. Engage means to share stories, build community and create deeper relationships. Most stations are not engaging consistently. It appears most stations have not adjusted their communication style from broadcasting to engaging."

Read the summary of Arbitron's study summary here.

Michael Schmitt
October 28, 2011 - 11:30am

Jacobs Media's Summit 16Jacobs Media Summit 2011 -- the 16th such gathering -- will take place on Wednesday, December 7 in Baltimore, MD during the Arbitron Client Conference.

The partial list of Summit 16 speakers includes radio futurologist James Cridland, WTOP VP/News & Programming Jim Farley, Director Digital Media for the NHL Washington Capitals Sean Parker and others.

You can find out more about Summit 16 from Jacobs Media here.


Michael Schmitt
October 28, 2011 - 11:30am

iHome's new iW1Apple-friendly device maker iHome has released a new Internet radio-friendly wireless and portable speaker called the iW1. The $300 device uses Apple's AirPlay technology (more here) to play music wirelessly from an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch -- including audio from most Internet radio apps.

As Gizmodo points out though, the "big sell" is portability: the iW1 packs a rechargeable battery, allowing you to proudly blast your finely-tuned Pandora or iHeartRadio station at "parties or outdoors or when you occupy some public space that's central to the 1% in your local metropolis."