New Wahwah app users can "co-listen" to stations based on musical tastes or activity

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:20pm

The webcaster formerly known as Senzari has rebranded its streaming music service as "Wahwah," with a "mobile-first" approach, reports TechCrunch.

Actually, a "mobile-only" approach, at least for now. The Senzari web-based streaming service is being shut down and rebuilt (to relaunch in 2-3 months).

Wahwah.fm was itself a Berlin-based streaming music app, acquired by Senzari last October.

With the new Wahwah app, users can create personalized radio streams from a 15 million track music catalog. The app can also craft listening based on your current activity -- music for "working," "driving," or "running," for example.

There's also the "co-listening" option, by which listeners browse other users' shared radio streams (filtered by "trending," featured, location, friends, and activity). Apparently, the shared broadcasts are "live" -- that is, in real time, like a broadcast station (no pausing, skipping songs, etc.).

Senzari itself will reportedly remain the brand behind other future, non-music efforts. The company is based in Miami and backed by $3 million in funding. RAIN has covered Senzari (and Wahwah.fm) here. Read the TechCrunch report here.

As a percentage of revenue, new satellite and cable radio royalties still wildly below webcast rates

Monday, December 17, 2012 - 12:40pm

Sound recording royalties for satellite radio service SiriusXM will rise from 8% of gross revenue to 9% in 2013, and continue to grow 0.5% each year (to 11% in 2017). The Copyright Royalty Board also set the new statutory rates for cable television music services. Those rates will rise from 8% of gross revenue now to 8.5% for 2014 through 2017.

The CRB announced its determinations late Friday.

This royalty is only for copyright sound recordings (i.e. not compositions), and only for satellite transmissions or cable TV (not webcasting). Most webcasters (including satellite radio and cable television radio when they stream online) pay royalties on sound recordings at a "per-performance" rate. For even the most successful webcasters, this royalty can amount to more than 50% of a company's gross revenue.

Read the brief CRB announcement of rates here.

Free Last.fm online radio to be limited to U.S., UK, and Germany - and only on its website

Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 3:15pm

CBS Interactive-owned music service Last.fm has announced it will shut down its online radio service in all but eight countries, "due to licensing restrictions."

While U.S., UK, and German listeners will still be able to use the Last.fm radio service free via the website, radio via the Last.fm desktop application in those nations will become solely a subscription-based service (ad-supported free radio via apps had been available to users in those countries). Mobile access to Last.fm radio (since April 2011) has been subscription-only, and will remain so.

Elsewhere in the world, Last.fm's radio service has been subscription-only since 2009. It will remain so for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Brazil. But elsewhere, Last.fm online radio will entirely cease on January 15.

The cost of licensing copyright sound recordings has always been, and continues to be, inhibitive to online music companies in the U.S. and elsewhere.

2012 marked the tenth anniversary of Last.fm's founding. It was purchased by CBS in 2007, and remains based in England.

Last.fm also announced an upcoming revamped desktop client.

Last.fm features a music recommender system called "Audioscrobbler," which compiles details of users' music habits ("scrobbling") -- on Internet radio stations, local files, or portable devices -- and builds a detailed profile of each user's musical tastes. It's this database that powers Last.fm's music recommendation capability.

Read the Last.fm announcement here.

Billboard analyzes Apple Internet radio strategy

Friday, September 7, 2012 - 1:05pm

"Apple would need to build its Internet radio service sooner or later," suggests Billboard.biz. Given Pandora's explosion in usage and strides in generating advertising revenue, on-demand services like Spotify have been stepping up their non-interactive radio features -- so perhaps it's time for Apple to do the same. Watch to see how Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook respond.

Billboard also suggests that direct deals between Apple and sound recording copyright owners (i.e. record labels) would allow Apple's service to stream anywhere around the world (the DMCA statutory license, which makes it unnecessary for webcasters to license directly from labels, applies only to the U.S.). This would be an obvious advantage over Pandora.

What's more, Apple obviously already has its iAd advertising platform, and a huge hardware customer base and the biggest download store in the world. They're uniquely positioned to leverage those tools to gain dominance in the Internet radio field.

"No Apple foray into music is a slum dunk. But given the company's track record in music and its commanding market position in mobile handsets and technology, Apple could become a major player - it could even dominate or reinvent Internet radio," writes Billboard.

Would Apple acquire an existing webcaster? "No acquisitions have been made public - Apple's purchase of SoundJam in 2000 preceded iTunes, and its purchase of Lala.com in 2009 preceded iTunes Match - so don't expect Apple to build from scratch any time soon."

Read more from Billboard.biz here.

Top online radio legal experts to explain recent royalty developments at RAIN Summit Dallas

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 12:05pm

At least two members of Congress have recently announced plans to introduce bills concerning the royalties webcasters pay to perform copyright sound recordings. News of the proposed legislation from Congressmen Chaffetz (here) and Nadler (here) bookended a Brookings Institution call for reform of webcast royalty determination (here).

For clarity on the complex topics of royalties and music licensing we'll turn to three of the industry's top legal experts for our "Music Licensing Roundtable" panel at RAIN Summit Dallas. RAIN readers are well familiar with attorney David Oxenford. He's a Washington, D.C.-based partner at Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer LLP, and he's represented the webcasting industry before Congress and in royalty negotiations. He'll lead the discussion with SESAC VP/Industry Relations & Business Communications Greg Riggle (left) and SoundExchange General Counsel Colin Rushing (right). 

RAIN Summit Dallas takes place September 18th -- the day before the start of the RAB NAB Radio Show, and at the same location: the Dallas Hilton Anatole. Please visit the RAIN Summit Dallas page for registration info, agenda, speaker roster, and more.

Immediately following the "Music Licensing Roundtable," knowDigital president Sam Milkman will present updated results of his company's ongoing study of "Successful Streaming Audio Brands." Then shortly after that will be the keynote address (more here) from Clear Channel Media and Entertainment President of National Sales, Marketing & Partnerships Tim Castelli (left). The afternoon also includes RAIN publisher Kurt Hanson's "State of the Industry" address, and the presentation of the third-annual RAIN Internet Radio Awards.

You can see the full RAIN Summit Dallas agenda, with a complete rundown of panel topics and speakers, here.

The Radio Show is currently offering a special two-for-one discount if you plan to attend both the Radio Show and RAIN Summit Dallas. Just register for the Radio Show (here), and make sure you select the "Radio Show/RAIN Summit Two-for-One Discount" option. See you in Dallas!

(We'd also like to remind you about our inaugural RAIN Summit Europe, coming up October 5th in Berlin. You can find more details on that, and links to register, here.)

Brookings wants a law to make 801(b)(1) the standard for all non-interactive digital radio

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 1:30pm

A new paper from a Washington, D.C. think tank clearly recounts how entrenched interests crafted copyright law to establish copyright royalty obligations that put webcasters at a severe disadvantage to other forms of radio -- and calls on Congress to fix it.

The highly-regarded Brookings Institution last week published "Digital Music Broadcast Royalties: The Case for a Level Playing Field" in which it calls for Congress to enact legislation requiring the use of a consistent legal standard for royalties when it comes to "all non-interactive digital audio broadcasting."

We've often discussed (such as here) -- as have leading experts in the field, such as attorney David Oxenford -- the fact that sound recording performance royalties for Internet radio are determined using a significantly different (and, as it's been demonstrated, dramatically unfavorable) legal standard than those for other forms of radio. 

The bottom-line result of the different legal standard can be seen in recent Copyright Royalty Board determinations. For instance, the CRB, based on the widely-used "801(b)(1)" standard in copyright law, "concluded in a December 2007 ruling that the satellite radio royalty rates should start at 6% of gross revenue for 2006, rising gradually to 8% in 2012." The same group of judges, using the significantly different "willing buyer/willing seller" standard (instead of 801(b)(1)), determined a royalty rate for Internet radio of $.0021 "per performance" (songs x listeners) for 2012. Pandora, had it been paying this rate instead of its special discounted agreement rate with SoundExchange, "its payments to SoundExchange for sound recording performance licenses would likely have... approach(ed) or exceed(ed) its revenue of $80.1 million."

The Brookings paper is an excellent primer on the differences between U.S. Copyright Law's "801(b)(1)" standard (used for rate-setting for satellite radio and services like Music Choice) and the "willing buyer/willing seller" standard that 1998's Digital Millennium Copyright Act mandated for webcasting. It also very nicely recounts the history of webcasting royalties, CARP and CRB, the DMCA, and more. The author, Brookings nonresident senior fellow John Villasenor, has published articles in Forbes (covered in RAIN here and here) on this very topic.

Brookings has at least one ally in Congress already. In July we reported (here) that Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has begun crafting a bill that would indeed replace the "willing buyer/willing seller" standard in webcast royalty determinations with the 801(b)(1) standard.

Download the Brookings paper here. Billboard.biz has also covered this story here.

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