The Death Knell Tolls for Pandora and Other Webcasters

April 18, 2007

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A couple of weeks ago a little known government body called the Copyright Royalty Board set new rates for webcasters like Pandora, Last.fm and other streaming music services. The new rates made many webcasters and streaming music entrepreneurs apoplectic. Only being tangentially related to the streaming music space I was a bit confused by all the doom and gloom talk that had lots of really intelligent and articulate folks claiming that this was the end of streaming radio. It all sounded so over the top that I sent an email to the ever accommodating Tim Westergren, of Pandora, asking for his take on the controversy. I sent him a series of questions largely based on some projections Michael Robertson posted to the Pho List and one of this responses at the time really shocked me.

“There will be no Internet radio by the end of 2007 if these [new rates] go unchanged.”

pandora_logo_email.jpg At the time I thought there was no way that the music industry would allow the mostly legal and fee paying interactive music services to go under. Services like Pandora and Last.fm have been hailed in the media as the new “it” companies for music promotion and fans across the globe embrace these services for music sampling and discovery. But as of yesterday, influenced by the ever present RIAA in the guise of its bastard child SoundExchange, the CRB denied webcasters like Pandora’s attempts to rehear the case. Effectively putting an end to the nascent interactive radio business.

The survival of Pandora and all of Internet radio is in jeopardy because of a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, DC to almost triple the licensing fees for Internet radio sites like Pandora. Tim Westergren in letter to Pandora commuity

In what seems like a last ditch effort to make a change to the deadly new rates, Tim Westernger sent a letter to the Pandora community asking people to write their lawmakers for a literal stay of execution. If you’ve enjoyed Pandora and Last.fm you might want to go ahead, sign the petition and get involved. Normally I’d also suggest that you go ahead and enjoy Pandora and Last.fm before they go out of business, but since the rates are being retroactively enforced, they apply to everyone that used the service in 2006 and everyone that uses it now, potentially tripling the fees these services owe copyright holders.

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The Two Sides of NIN

March 21, 2007

poster_23052.jpgAt this weeks VON 07 conference I was accosted by a fanatic passionate Canuck Podcaster. He regaled me with tales of the Internet’s future and helpfully suggested I spend more time online; so I could better understand online communities and the changes they are likely to have on big media.

One of the many points he made was how NIN was using the Internet and specifically Last.fm to engage theirs fans. He spoke about it in such loving and rapt tones that I thought for sure that Trent and team had jumped from their label and were now doing things on their own. No such luck. Janko Roettgers over at the put up a post today highlighting just how well the labels can screw-up anything dealing with the Internet. The short story, a German fan participating in the NIN ARG (started by NIN’s label) got shakendown for $675 by NIN’s German label reps. Thats right he got sued by NIN label reps for participating in a game started by NIN’s label. After a few months and lots of pressure from the blogosphere the label woke up, ate crow, apologized and made good.

This struck me as such an apt example, especially after the WSJ article today, of how dysfunctional the labels are and how difficult it is to manage the diametrically opposed goals of control and engagement.


EMI and Last.fm join forces is Pandora Next

February 28, 2007

Last.fm LogoAfter Steve Jobs dropped his anti-DRM bomb on the labels people immediately started talking about which label would be the first to wake up to MP3. Early money was on EMI being the first to buckle, largely because they are in the toughest financial position and Ted Cohen used to run the show. We’ll looks like the early money was wrong as EMI signs a streaming deal with Last.fm.

EMI Home Today EMI announced a deal with Last.fm, giving Last.fm users the ability to stream music from EMI artists including: Corinne Bailey Rae (a damned good album), Norah Jones (a great album), KT Tunstall (damned good for a long drive), Keith Urban (kill yourself) and Robbie Williams (who?). Paid content has a good blurb on this and you can check out the original release here. Rumors are also swirling that Last.fm may fall to Viacom in the coming weeks.

As a Pandora user myself I dont really get the appeal of Last.fm, which seems far more cluttered and confusing then the elegant and simple Pandora. Maybe I dont have enough friends, if your on Last.fm add me as a friend up (in fact I’m friendless on Orkut too…).