In casting around online I found this website. Whymusicmatters.com was created by NARM and RIAA as a resource to help consumers find authorized online music services. The site also features videos by various artists singing about the value of music.
“For the first time, in 2011 digital music revenues surpassed those generated from physical sales and that marker was reached because of a breathtaking array of services and platforms embraced by music companies.”said RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman. ” We understand that with so many options for accessing music online, users are eager for more information about which services are legitimate and what kinds of functionality they offer. That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with NARM and digitalmusic.org to launch whymusicmatters.com, which will hopefully make it easier for fans to access and discover sites that offer their favorite music.”
I’m glad to have found a resource where I can determine if a service is authorized, since it’s one of my personal policies to avoid promoting services that are not. But I’m disappointed in the site – apparently it’s really a site to help consumers find RIAA/NARM’s preferred online music services. It’s really hard to find Internet radio stations because they are listed as “statutory services” under streaming. All the premium subscription services are listed and linked to individually, with logos and descriptions, on that page, and then at the very bottom there’s a box that says “Statutory Services” which opens a new page where the listener has to click through hundreds of alphabetized radio stations (no logos, no descriptions, no links) to find one.
Unfortunately, this site is a glaring in-your-face example of a bad business partnership. Internet radio services, Pandora in particular, are paying a lot of money in royalties to SoundExchange, the royalty collection arm of the RIAA, and in return they get a listing buried deep in the site with no logo or link. Is there any other business you can think of where the vendors treat their retailers so badly? Because that’s what this is, it’s streaming services buying the rights to content and offering it to consumers. And clearly the RIAA and NARM are bad business partners for Internet radio…
2011 revenues for the record industry from streaming music royalties jumped to more than half a billion dollars, according to a year end report by RIAA. Revenues from subscripton services (like Spotify, Pandora One, Rdio, MOG, Slacker) jumped 13.5% to $241 million, and Digital Performance Royalties, paid by all other streaming services (including Pandora) rose 17.2% to $292 million.
In its fiscal year ended January 2012, Pandora paid out more than $285 million in “content acquisition”, the bulk of which is performance royalties to SoundExchange. The time periods don’t match up perfectly because the RIAA report is calendar year, but you get the picture — Pandora’s paying a huge amount to SoundExchange.
Which should make for an interesting next round of negotiations for streaming royalty rates. Tim Westergren has always been very vocal on this topic, stating over and over again that he’s not against a royalty, but that the current costs are too high. With the next round of CRB hearings looming, he’s talking about it again. But this time, he’s coming to the table with over a 100 million registered users. And he’s SoundExchange’s biggest customer.
Pandora’s also got a lot of investors, and they’re working that crowd as well, including this statement in their recent SEC filing:
“Since our inception in 2000, we have incurred significant net operating losses and, as of January 31st, 2012, we had an accumulated deficit of $101.4 million. A key element of our strategy is to increase the number of listeners and listener hours to increase our market penetration. However, as our number of listener hours increases, the royalties we pay for content acquisition also increase. We have not in the past generated, and may not in the future generate, sufficient revenue from the sale of advertising and subscriptions to offset such royalty expenses.”
This new revenue report from the RIAA shows very clearly that the recording industry is becoming increasingly dependent on the streaming industry as a very real source of bread and butter.