New law would untangle web of EU's 250 royalty collection agencies

Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 12:25pm

The EU's governing body yesterday introduced legislation designed to strengthen the European digital music market by streamlining how copyright royalties are collected.

Though nation members of the European Union act together on a wide span of issues, each nation has its own set of agencies that administer composition, publishing, sound recording, and mechanical copyrights for music -- 250 collecting societies in the 27 EU member states alone.

The result is that digital music companies (for instance, leading webcaster Pandora) are forced to negotiate individual agreements with each of these bodies for each country in which they'd like to operate. In the end, for most operators, it's too complex and expensive, and so instead they simply block listening in countries with which they have not forged agreements (and why Pandora isn't legally available in Europe). [See our related coverage about Pandora in Australia and New Zealand here.]

The current situation, the European Commission says, limits consumers' choices, hurts those who hold music copyrights, and promotes unauthorized music sharing. Though the Commission passed legislation in 2008 for "pan-European" licenses and to break down the national barriers it felt held back the growth of digital music, it was ineffective. 

Read more in The New York Times here.

CNN highlights young listeners who are choosing to "stream, not own music"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 12:45pm

Young music listener"Ninety percent of my friends stream music. To be honest, I haven't seen someone use iTunes in a really long time... The last time I bought a CD was probably in middle school, and I can't even remember what it was."

So said Sean Wilson, a 21-year-old resident of Atlanta, Georgia. He's one of the examples of what CNN calls "a looming sea change for the music industry," in which "more and more [college-age music fans] are choosing to stream music instead of downloading it."

"If I could reliably stream music for free to all of my portable devices I would use streaming sites exclusively," a 23-year-old said.'s Eliot Van Buskirk told CNN, "There is a certain relief with not having to own music. It is a lot of work."

CNN ponders (here), "the growth of music apps, online radio channels, and music-streaming platforms raise an even larger question: Do we really need to 'own' music anymore?"

Evolver's Van Buskirk says services that pay as people listen will help kill the "one-hit wonder"

Friday, June 8, 2012 - 11:45am

While artists advocates complain about low payouts from streaming services like Spotify,'s Eliot Van Buskirk makes that point that such services may in fact be doing something far more important: helping to improve our shared musical culture.

Here's his argument: The economics of the music business of the past rewarded labels and artists when a record was purchased. Getting the customer to lay down the cash at the record store or the iTunes store was all that mattered. Whether that record became a lifelong favorite of the purchaser -- or they listened to it once and never again -- didn't matter. This reality incentivized the creation of "one-hit-wonders capable of moving product quickly."

But music consumption is moving away from the "upfront payment" of purchasing product, and towards "pay as you use" streaming services (Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, MOG, iHeartRadio, Rdio, Rhapsody). In this world, copyright owners and artists will earn not by creating a product that convinces a listener to take a one-time action (make the purchase), but by creating art that the listener wants to enjoy again and again.

"It’s no longer enough to convince fans to buy a disc once," writes Van Buskirk. "Instead, artists and labels have to turn them into lifelong fans."

More from Van Buskirk: "This new phase of music just what music fans who are sick of one-hit wonders and flashy pop hits need. By paying out only when people actually listen instead of suckering fans into buying something only to leave it on the shelf... on-demand unlimited music services build an incentive into the music business to create works of lasting value."

As we've argued the Internet may usher in a new golden age of radio, Van Buskirk wistfully hopes for a return to a time "when labels used to spend years or decades developing an artist instead of releasing whatever they think will sell that week."

Read Van Buskirk in here. wraps up Radio/Podcast Webby Awards category; 2 People Voice nods to Pandora for Music

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 1:10pm

The popular lecture site (now an NPR show and podcast, see our coverage here) nabbed both top prizes in the Webby Awards Radio/Podcast Websites category. Winners of the 16th annual "Best of the Web" awards were announced today. beat other nominees CNN Podcasts, New Yorker podcasts, NPR, and The Cocktail Party Statement for both the academy-awarded Webby Award, and the People's Voice (as decided by popular voting).

Pandora won People's Voice awards in both the Music Websites and Music Mobile & Apps divisions. Indie music blog Pitchfork and Spotify, respectively, won the Webbies for those categories. (Spotify had also been nominated in Music Websites.)

Other winners included Google Music (People's Voice for Best Visual Design (Aesthetic)), BBC News (People's Voice in News Websites), NPR (People's Voice in News Mobile & Apps).

See all the nominees and winners here. Our prior coverage of the nominees is here.

Shadowy Anonymous group builds social music platform

Monday, April 23, 2012 - 12:35pm

A group of developers claiming to be part of Anonymous have built Anontune, a social music platform that aggregates streams from various Internet sources (e.g. YouTube) to build shareable playlists.

The developers wanted a music player like YouTube, but better organized, and with more obscure music... combining "music websites like Myspace, Yahoo, YouTube and others."

Users register (anonymously, naturally), and set up an account. They can then craft playlists by supplying titles of songs they want to hear, or Anontune can browse a user's iTunes collection. Anontune then finds the songs on the web using the web browser. According to Wired, most of the tracks come from YouTube and SoundCloud, but developers are adding Yahoo Music, Myspace Music, Bandcamp and others.

The service simply finds music already online, and is thus more similar to a search engine or torrent tracker. According to a video released about the project, "Anontune will never host any copyrighted music at any time, nor will it be streaming music. It will not offer for download any copyrighted music or even encourage it... This time, the law will be on our side...

"The state of online music has been sabotaged by the fat hands of corporate involvement..." set on "steal(ing) your freedom and safe-guard(ing) their profits." 

You can read Wired's coverage and see the video here. You can read a whitepaper on it here and get more tech details here.

Pandora (like AM/FM, for that matter) competes for listening with a wide array of other audio options, says study

Monday, March 12, 2012 - 11:35am

Radio researcher Mark Kasoff conducted a survey a Pandora listeners recently, to find what they'd substitute for it if it weren't available. In other words, if Pandora's site was down, how would its fans get their music fix?

Kassof's team found that terrestrial radio -- while nearer the top of a list of alternate sources of audio entertainment (49% of respondents mentioned it) -- was "not the clear alternative choice for Pandora listeners…it’s just one of many." That's because just as many (or more) Pandora partisans said they'd listen to "iPod/MP3 player" and "laptop/computer" (we're assuming these both could be taken to mean "personal music collection" or possibly "other streaming outlets" (including on-demand services). YouTube was also among the top responses.

Kassof's conclusion: "Pandora has at least as much in common with iPods and other music-only sources as it does with radio... probably more! The best strategy for radio is to do what Pandora and the others can’t – connect with listeners on a personal and emotional level."

Read Kassof's entry in his ListenerThink blog here.

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