The five biggest stories in the music business this week…
01: Pandora sued ASCAP to lower its royalty rates. The American streaming music service says that the rates currently being offered by the US collecting society are unfair, because they are not as favourable as those offered to traditional broadcasters like Clear Channel which have recently moved into the online music space. The likes of Clear Channel negotiate the royalties they pay for their online services at the same time as negotiating music publisher fees for their FM networks, via the Radio Music Licensing Committee. Pandora said that suing ASCAP was the standard route to go once direct negotiations had failed, though David Israelite of the National Music Publishers Association said it was “outrageous” that the digital firm, currently valued at nearly $1.3 billion by the stock market (and at one point at over $2 billion), was seeking to pay songwriters and publishers less money. CMU report | Billboard report
02: Warner Music announced a restructure of its US business. The biggest innovation is the grouping of the Warner/Chappell publishing business and the Rhino catalogue label into one division, bringing together the major’s publishing and recordings catalogues for the first time. The frontline labels will continue to operate as a separate division, though with each label’s head reporting directly into Warner Music CEO Stephen Cooper, meaning no replacement for the firm’s recently departed recorded music chief Lyor Cohen is likely to be recruited. The third new division will bring together distribution and other artist services units. For the time being the structural rejig will only affect the US. CMU report | Variety report
03: EMI acquisitions had setback in Brazil, as Universal announced plans to launch Capitol UK. Both Sony/ATV and Universal were told by the Brazilian competition regulator that they couldn’t merge the EMI publishing and label businesses they had respectively recently acquired in the country with their existing companies there. Both seem to hope that the set back is temporary. Meanwhile, in one of his first interviews since acquiring the EMI record companies, Universal chief Lucian Grainge said he planned to launch EMI’s American label brand Capitol in the UK, the mega-major having been forced to sell off EMI’s UK-based Parlophone brand by European regulators. CMU report | Bloomberg report | Grainge interview
04: AEG won the rights to stage concerts in Hyde Park, and announced plans to stage six events there and to launch a new city-centre festival on the site. AEG replace Live Nation as the operators of the Hyde Park stage, though execs at Live Nation have been telling everyone that will listen of late that they are glad to be rid of the Royal Park franchise, after increasingly draconian licensing rules made staging events in the park ever more frustrating. It remains to be seen if AEG can overcome those challenges. CMU report | BBC report
05: The UK government said it would consider the success of Google’s anti-piracy measures, before considering whether any statutory obligations should be put on search engines in the in-development Communications Act, forcing such services to downgrade or remove copyright infringing websites from their search results. Back in August, Google said it would downgrade websites in its search results that had been the subject of large numbers of legitimate takedown requests by copyright owners. But some in the content industries remain frustrated with how well websites distributing unlicensed content score in web search results. CMU report | Guardian report
In CMU this week, we spoke to Inge Andre Sandvik about developments on his Soundrop app, Pinback compiled a great playlist for us, and Editor Andy Malt explained why Neil Fox should stop telling Radio 1 what music to play. We announced another batch of CMU Training courses and that we are again supporting the Best Student Journalist prize at the Record Of The Day Awards, while approving of Frost, Ty Segall, Buke And Gase and His Clancyness.