Pandora radio on deathbed?

The wonderful web radio giant Pandora.com — and lesser web radio sites, too — are reportedly about to be done in by per-song performance royalty rates doubled last year by a federal panel. Pandora’s founder says he’ll have to shut it down soon if the terms can’t be changed. Read the whole story in the Washington Post, and wonder who has it in for the free dissemination of music that we don’t know but might like anyway.  


Pandora was the topic of an earlier post on this blog, and it’s a service I continue to use, enjoy and promote to friends and family. I don’t know of an easier way to declare one’s listening preferences and have Pandora’s friendly Music Genome Project stream complementary sounds — some known, some unfamiliar –into my computer as long as I feel like sticking with it. 

I’m all for artists (writers included!!!) receiving compensation for the dissemination of their copyrighted works on the web. Traditional radio pays no such royalty fees, satellite radio is assessed at a lesser rate. I’m in an awkward McCain-like position of not understanding the precise economics or legalisms in this case. Does this involve the competition of web radio with traditional radio and satellite radio? What is the role of SoundExchange, the Recording Industry Association of America, iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, any lobbyists and/or competing systems for delivering music online?

I wonder who is suffering from the popularity of Pandora. Is it really underpaid musicians? I haven’t heard any of the musicians I know complaining about this service. A lot of them say they listen to it. 

The Washington Post article does not suggest that the American public can do anything about the apparently imminent disruption of service prompted by our very own government’s Copyright Royalty Board. This is a three-member panel of judges appointed in 2006 to staggered terms. Here are their qualifications: Chief Judge James Scott Sledge is

retired United States Bankruptcy Judge from Alabama . . . [who has] served for 12 years on the Alabama State Council on the Arts, including two years as chairman. He was a director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, an Alabama advocacy captain for Americans for the Arts, and a director on the regional Southern Arts Federation.


Judge Stanley Wisniewski holds a Ph.D. in economics from Catholic University of America and a J.D. from University of Maryland School of Law. . .  [H]e represented a variety of clients in litigation, arbitration and administrative proceedings [and] also served on the American Arbitration Association list of commercial arbitrators.


Judge William J. Roberts began his legal career in the Copyright Office in 1987 . .  served as an attorney advisor in the Copyright General Counsel’s Office and was promoted to senior attorney for compulsory licenses. He was a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel attorney for the entire 12-year history of the panel. Since the inception of the Copyright Royalty Board, Judge Roberts has served as interim senior attorney. He is an adjunct faculty member at the George Mason University School of Law where he teaches copyright law.

These backgrounds of these eminent jurists (as reported on Board’s website) says nothing about their knowledge of or philosophies of the web. Just who is being protected? How will increased fees be distributed? Who benefits, overall? California Congressman Howard Berman is trying to broker an agreement that would relieve web radio from these performance royalty fees which sites like Pandora say are financially onerous — and the good Congressman has an impressive list of successes with initiatives that at first glance resemble tilting at windmills. Seems like all we citizens can do is wait, and hope determinations are made in our interests. How often does that happen? Anyone have a petition to sign? What a’bout a letter-writing campaign? 

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Comments

  1. says

    It’s hard to understand the logic of shutting down Pandora through such usurious rate hikes. Pandora’s business model is to link listeners directly to iTunes or Amazon so they can purchase music they haven’t heard before. I’ve purchased all kinds of music that I hadn’t previously discovered.
    It has been more than a year now since Pandora was shut out of Canada — and other non-US locations too, I assume — so it’s no surprise that the powers-that-be finally have managed to do the same in the States.
    One step forward, two steps back.

  2. says

    It’s hard to understand the logic of shutting down Pandora through such usurious rate hikes. Pandora’s business model is to link listeners directly to iTunes or Amazon so they can purchase music they haven’t heard before. I’ve purchased all kinds of music that I hadn’t previously discovered.
    It has been more than a year now since Pandora was shut out of Canada — and other non-US locations too, I assume — so it’s no surprise that the powers-that-be finally have managed to do the same in the States.
    One step forward, two steps back.

  3. says

    It’s hard to understand the logic of shutting down Pandora through such usurious rate hikes. Pandora’s business model is to link listeners directly to iTunes or Amazon so they can purchase music they haven’t heard before. I’ve purchased all kinds of music that I hadn’t previously discovered.
    It has been more than a year now since Pandora was shut out of Canada — and other non-US locations too, I assume — so it’s no surprise that the powers-that-be finally have managed to do the same in the States.
    One step forward, two steps back.

  4. says

    Go for the economist, that’s the only hope. Surely he must realize that while the old Malthusian economics of scarcity were a farce from the start, the same is not necessarily true of modern enlightened economics, and unlike the other two, there is nothing about his world-view to preclude the influence of the web.
    As for Pandora, it was long ago shut down for those of us outside the US. Why else did you think we stopped buying your new artists’ records?
    HM: Uh, whose world view — Malthus’s?
    I’m sorry Pandora — which has realized a good idea — has gotten/is getting shut down anywhere. Of all the instances out there of alleged or proven intellectual property rights infringements, streaming web radio seems (from my limited research) pretty victim-free. And pushing new media genies working their way out of the bottle seems fruitless. Terrestrial radio will survive or not, same as print newspapers, on the basis of the medium’s own adaptation, not by suppressing new forms of info dissemination.
    There are probably a lot of reasons “[you] stopped buying [our] new artists’ records.” If indeed “you” did.You may have your own artists now (cf my post on BBC Jazz Awards), you may be past (or not up to) new artists, and their works may not be getting to you through old channels of distribution. Anyway, if it’s so new artists’ aren’t being bought (in Canada? in the UK? Europe? Middle East? Japan? Brazil?) is that more noticeably true of exploratory jazz-derived efforts than of pop-rap-hip-hop or contemporary classical music? And is it a bad thing?

  5. ShoreGirl says

    I would hate to see Pandora go, and I would expect that many artists would, too. I love to listen for hours while on my computer at work. As others stated, I have found new artists I would never have heard anywhere else! And I have then purchased their CD’s (OK,I’m still a dinosaur)and I have sought out their live shows. I sometimes have to keep myself away from Pandora for brief periods because it was costing me so much in music purchases! :-)
    Long live internet radio!!

  6. Michael H says

    I used to listen to Pandora every day, several times a month I would click through to Amazon and buy a couple of CD’s I would have never considered before.
    The music industry has definitely lost. This closure is serving no-one
    UK
    HM: Hey Michael, I don’t know about the UK rules, but the US legistlature DID pass the bill favorably for Pandora — restraining royalty rates to an affordable level. As I read the bill, this is not unfavorable to musicians whose music is being used. So score one for the good guys. And here’s toward watching how music keeps getting out from those who make it to those who listen.

  7. says

    It will indeed saddened many memories if Pandora need to shut down dut to the actual situation. I am always tuned to Pandora , sometimes purchased some cd through it though I never purchased on internet elsewhere. That will be a great lost.
    HM: Pandora came to an agreement over this problem, and does not seem to be in danger at this time.