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RAIN 5/10: EMI's pull-out from ASCAP could add complexity and cost for webcasters

Posted on: 05/10/2011


Performing rights organization ASCAP up until recently licensed the public performance of EMI Music Publishing’s songs. But last week EMI Music Publishing withdrew portions of its publishing catalog from ASCAP as regards “New Media” licensing.

“By withdrawing from ASCAP, EMI will now license its musical compositions itself, adding one more place that webcasters will need to go to get all the rights necessary to play music on an Internet radio type of service,” explains industry attorney David Oxenford, a partner with Davis Wright Tremaine (pictured below left).

EMI says the move will make licensing more efficient. Oxenford disagrees. He argues the licensing process for webcasters could be “balkanized” if other publishers follow EMI’s lead. “For traditional Internet radio services, the efficiencies seem to diminish, not increase.”

He continues, “The whole idea of a performing rights organization with collective licensing is that it provides to digital music services the efficiencies offered by a one-stop shop for the purchase of rights to all a very large set of musical compositions.”

Two problems could loom large for webcasters: price and availability of music.

For example, because EMI would not be subject to the sort of government oversight that ASCAP is, it “could charge what it wanted…and even charge different services different amounts.”

Moreover, “it’s possible that they could even exert more control over the use of the sound recordings.” Take the Beatles, for example, whose catalog EMI mostly holds. If EMI feels the Copyright Royalty Board’s rates are too low for the Fab Four’s music, it could “effectively block the use” of the Beatles’ catalog “by extracting a higher price for the musical composition the next time the license for that composition becomes due.”

In the end though, “this is an evolving story. There are many questions that remain.”

You can find much more analysis and explanation from David Oxenford’s Broadcast Law Blog here. Read ASCAP’s statement on the matter here.


Google will reportedly launch its long-awaited cloud music service later today. The service, dubbed Music Beta, notably follows Amazon’s lead in not including music labels, which means Google can’t sell songs to users or let them share songs with friends.

Instead, Google will offer users the ability to store up to 20,000 songs for free in the cloud and stream them to computers and Android devices (iOS support is on the way). By comparison, Amazon’s service offers 5GB of free storage (about 1,200 songs, as Engadget estimates). Google will also offer automatic playlist features.

The service should roll out in the next few weeks.

Why the lack of support from music labels? “A couple of the major labels were less focused on the innovative vision that we put forward, and more interested in an unreasonable and unsustainable set of business terms,” said Jamie Rosenberg, Director of Android Product Management.

Read more on the story from Engadget here and The New York Times here.


TargetSpot today announced it will deliver in-stream audio ads for three new partners: AccuRadio, Hubbard Radio and Townsquare Media. Additionally, TargetSpot will serve pre-roll video advertising for AccuRadio’s 500 channels.

“These three properties represent the addition of nearly 700 new stations to the TargetSpot network,” the company writes. You can read more from TargetSpot’s press release here.

AccuRadio is run by the same folks who bring you RAIN each day.

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