Angus MacDonald

SoundExchange: SiriusXM, Pandora royalties constitute "substantially" less than 90% of total revenues

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 12:45pm

SoundExchangeLast week we wrote about new calculations from Live365 general counsel Angus MacDonald, which found that 90% of SoundExchange's 2011 revenue came from just SiriusXM and Pandora (RAIN coverage here).

Now SoundExchange refutes the claim, though the collection agency says they "are not able to publicly disclose the payments to SoundExchange from specific digital music services." SoundExchange argues that royalty payments from SiriusXM and Pandora made up "substantially below" 90% of their revenues.

Billboard.biz has more coverage here.

MacDonald calculated that Pandora's royalty payments alone made up 36.66% of SoundExchange's revenues. The webcaster paid "about as much in royalties for its FY 2012... as it made in TOTAL REVENUES for its previous fiscal year, FY 2011," wrote MacDonald.

Pandora paid 49.7% of its FY 2012 revenues to SoundExchange, according to its 10-K submitted to the SEC.

SiriusXM is currently suing SoundExchange and A2IM, accusing the record industry organizations of interfering with its efforts to reach direct deals with rightsholders (RAIN coverage here and here).

MacDonald: "Staggering figure" suggests Pandora, SiriusXM have "a good deal of leverage to extract a fair royalty deal"

Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 11:40am

Angus MacDonaldAccording to new analysis from Live365 general counsel Angus MacDonald (pictured), 90% of SoundExchange's 2011 revenues "came from only two sources": SiriusXM and Pandora.

MacDonald estimates SiriusXM's royalty payments to SoundExchange to be around $200 million in 2011 (based on the company's judicially-filed complaint against SoundExchange from March 23, though "a small portion" of the figure may be non-U.S. statutory payments). And Pandora's royalty payments to SoundExchange totaled $136.3 million in the 12 months that ended January 31, 2012.

SoundExchange's total 2011 revenues were $371.9 million. Combined, Pandora and SiriusXM's royalty payments make up around 90% of SoundExchange's revenues.

"That is a staggering figure," comments MacDonald, "especially if you consider all of the major and not-so-major terrestrial broadcasters who must pay royalties to SX for their simulcasts, as well as all the other types of services that pay royalties to SX... This suggests that Sirius and Pandora have a good deal of leverage to extract a fair royalty deal from SX for their respective royalty proceedings in the CRB."

SiriusXM and Pandora make up 90% of SX's revenue in 2011The finding is also noteworthy considering SiriusXM is trying to avoid paying SoundExchange by reaching its own direct licensing deals with rightsholders (RAIN coverage here). SiriusXM recently filed a lawsuit against SoundExchange and the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), accusing the record industry organziations of interfering with its efforts to reach those direct deals (RAIN coverage here and here).

MacDonald also recently calculated (as published yesterday in Audio4Cast here) that SoundExchange's total royalty collections were up 40% from 2010 to 2011. That growth was mainly fueled by Pandora, which paid out nearly 50% of its revenues to SoundExchange in the fiscal year that ended January 31, 2012, according to MacDonald.

"Another interesting fact: Pandora paid about as much in royalties for its FY 2012 (i.e., $136.3M) as it made in TOTAL REVENUES for its previous fiscal year, FY 2011 ($137.7M).

"With Pandora’s ever-growing listening hours and royalty payments," MacDonald continues, "SoundExchange and the labels need a healthy Pandora as much as Pandora needs a reasonable Pureplay-like rate for the next royalty term (2016-2020). This is especially true if Sirius XM continues to sign up more direct license deals, thereby bypassing SoundExchange (though Sirius XM’s recent antitrust complaint suggests that may be a tough row to hoe)."

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