When SoundExchange, the organization that represents many labels and artists, proposed steep new royalty rates for radio webcasters last year, they shortsightedly killed off their own revenue stream. Instead of their proposed rates being cut back as part of a standard negotiation, they were surprised to see the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board reject opposing arguments and adopt SoundExchange’s rates fully. Now Pandora, the popular streaming music site, says it’s paying over 70% of its revenue in royalties, and unless Washington changes the rates soon—which looks unlikely— they will have to shut down.
“We’re losing money as it is,” founder Tim Westergren’s told The Washington Post. “The moment we think this problem in Washington is not going to get solved, we have to pull the plug because all we’re doing is wasting money,” adding, “We’re funded by venture capital. They’re not going to chase a company whose business model has been broken. So if it doesn’t feel like its headed towards a solution, we’re done.”
So where can you get your Pandora-like fix in the future? There’s Nutsie, which streams a rough facsimile of your own music library to your phone, but when we tried it a year ago it was Symbian-friendly (albeit buggy) and now it seems to just run on Blackberry devices. If you’ve got the patience to upload all your music to the fee-based backup service mp3tunes.com, you can access your backed-up library from a PC (as well as several other types of devices) and stream the songs, but only files in mp3 format (no aac streaming for you!). There’s always last.fm, a great recommendation service (I like it better than Pandora, actually) which now has the deep pockets of CBS to support it and seems to be working on a subscription model it will introduce sometime in the future. Or finally, SimplifyMedia offers a free application that will let you share your iTunes library across the web to other computers, your iPhone, and up to 30 friends. (NB:the iPhone version of the app costs money.)