Few people know this but for a little while last year, the music-royalty rates that Web radio stations have complained about for years appeared to be behind them.
In a midtown Manhattan law office last November 6, representatives from Webcasting companies and SoundExchange, the group that collects royalties for recording artists and labels, struck a deal "in principle," said sources familiar with the negotiations. The agreement was designed to restructure the royalty rates Webcasters have long said would decimate the sector.
But a week ago, came word that a final deal was never signed. The Digital Media Association (DiMA), the group that represents most of the largest Webcasters, including Pandora, Live365 and Yahoo, announced that the parties failed to reach an agreement. How could that happen? Both sides told members of Congress in September that they were close to a deal. In November, the blog All Things Digital reported a settlement was within grasp and quoted Pandora founder Tim Westergren saying "all the hard stuff has been done."
After interviewing multiple sources on both sides of the issue, the picture that has taken shape is that Webcasters blew a golden opportunity to reach an accord that would have given them much of what they asked for. What appears to have happened is that some in Webcasting were willing to play a game of brinkmanship with SoundExchange. At the very least, the actions of some larger Webcasters undermine their claims that they can't afford to continue for much longer without a settlement.
There is still a chance the two sides can come to terms. Talks are ongoing. But as it stands, time is quickly running out and nothing has occurred to indicate a breakthrough is near, according to sources on both sides. If a settlement isn't reached, its conceivable that some Web radio stations that legitimately can't afford to pay the performance fees set by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) two years ago may be in jeopardy. Representatives from SoundExchange declined to comment. Westergren did not return repeated phone calls.
Did Real want a deal? There's no doubt who the music side blames for derailing the agreement. … Read more