@hannajkarp: Will Pandora Be Allowed to Create A Spotify-Style Black Box for Songwriters AND Screw pre-72 Artists?

This Wall Street Journal article does not say one word about music publishing so expect that there will be another Spotify-style black box that doesn’t get paid to songwriters because you know–why learn from the past when that slush fund worked so well?

The question is–will anyone try to stop Pandora from launching without licenses.

And given the murky language in Pandora’s licenses about performance rights, will Pandora be the first service to try to take advantage of the DOJ’s absurd position on the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees to launch without PRO licenses?

Pandora is, after all, a MIC Coalition member and the MIC Coalition appears to have been the driving force at DOJ in its ruinous ruling on consent decrees.

Pandora MIC Coalition

Hesse

Here’s a big question: Should foreign societies allow a known infringer and stated enemy of songwriters to take advantage of their blanket licenses?

Pandora is aiming to start expanding its internet-radio service as soon as next month, offering its hallmark free tier as well as two new monthly subscription options that will mark its foray into on-demand music streaming, said people familiar with the matter.

Pandora is close to reaching deals with major record companies that will allow it to do so both in the U.S. and in new overseas markets, though the agreements haven’t been finalized, these people said.

While the music industry broadly supports the new paid tiers, some record-label executives are still wary of granting Pandora permission to launch its free service in new foreign markets without the ability to control which songs they put on the free tier.

Until now, the 16-year-old outfit hasn’t had to secure permission from record labels to use their music because it doesn’t let users listen to particular tunes on demand. It also had limited its service to the U.S., Australia and New Zealand—the few countries that make music licensing essentially automatic for internet-radio firms, as long as they pay rates mandated by federal judges or licensing collectives.

Pandora plans to roll out its new subscription tiers in the U.S. and then in other English-speaking countries before launching elsewhere, these people said.

The foreign expansion could jump-start growth for Pandora, which has seen its listenership plateau in recent years at about 80 million active monthly users. Most listeners use Pandora’s free tier, with about 4 million subscribing to an ad-free version of its service, Pandora One, for $5 a month.

Neither of Pandora’s current offerings allows users to select specific songs to listen to; instead users pick a custom “station” that includes music similar to their initial choice.

The slowdown in user growth has rattled investors. Shares, which were trading around $20 last fall, fell 35% in November when the company announced a dip in listenership from the prior quarter, and haven’t recovered much since. Shares closed at $13.35 on Friday in New York. A $90 million settlement Pandora paid late last year to the record labels involving its use of music recorded before 1972 also sent the stock down.

Read the story in the Wall Street Journal.

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