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RAIN 5/20: SoundEx "undistributed funds" top $200 million, Digital Music News finds

Posted on: 05/20/2010

SX: AMOUNT REFLECTSEXPLOSION” OF NET RADIO

SoundExchange is holding over $200 million in unpaid royalties, according to Digital Music News. “And, given the growth arcs,” Digital Music News writes, “the amount may be quite a lot more.” SoundExchange’s current pile of $200 million is up from $96.7 million it had at the end of 2006, “highlighting the problems this organization is facing locating performing artists.” That said, according to IRS returns, SoundExchange had nearly $260 million at the end of 2008, showing that “a huge ramp-up in artist outreach” is having some effect.

The problem, SoundExchange said, is in part caused by the booming popularity of online radio. “The whole industry is increasing year-over-year,” said SoundExchange executive Laura Williams. “We’re just a part of, or more accurately a reflection of, that explosion.”

Yet to Digital Music News, $200 million in unpaid royalty payments still “sounds like a monstrous number, and one that should be drawing some scrutiny. One attorney reviewing the situation noted that ‘any non-profit carrying more than $200 million on its books has a serious problem.’”

Digital Music News questioned (here) why services like Pandora have to pay “such heavy royalties if the money ends up in a holding tank, with large amounts undistributed?” Pandora reportedly spent $30 million of their $50 million revenues in 2009 on royalties. Yet Pandora founder Tim Westergren sympathized with SoundExchange. “I think, and I say this as a musician myself, that musicians need to step up here,” he said. “I don’t think SoundExchange is trying to hold on to money. It’s just remarkably hard to get musicians to take the initiative.”

GOOGLE UNVEILS APP STORE FOR WEB BROWSERS, CHROME OS

Google yesterday unveiled the Chrome Web Store — an app store of sorts for Google’s Chrome operating system and web browsers. The store is much like those found on iPhones, Androids or webOS devices, only no applications are actually downloaded. Apps stay in the cloud and can be accessed from any modern web browser, or Google’s coming web-based operating system.

But why might a preexisting web service — like an Internet radio stream already available for any modern browser — need or want to develop an app for Google’s Chrome store? Well, the Wall Street Journal notes (here) that the Sports Illustrated app, for example, “had richer graphics and ads and more navigation options than traditional Web pages offer.” Additionally, Wired points out (here), “This not only gives app developers a new avenue for selling their software, but will allow content industries such as news publications, video producers, and musicians to sell web content.” And, from the shots of Google’s presentation found on Engadget (here), it looks like Pandora and NPR already have apps in the Chrome store.

The Chrome Web Store is set to launch later in 2010. Wired concludes, “The big losers in all of this: Microsoft and Apple, whose desktop operating systems just got a lot less interesting…[Apple’s App Store] now looks even more like a closed-off, walled garden.”

BBC RADIO STREAMS NOW OFFICIALLY AVAILABLE ON MOBILE DEVICES

“As our audiences spend an increasing amount of time consuming content via their mobile devices it seemed the time was nigh for a change in our policies,” writes the BBC’s executive producer for mobile, James Simcock, in a blog post announcing that mobile users can now officially listen to live BBC Radio streams. Previously BBC Radio was hesitant to provide official mobile access to streams “due to the end-user cost and bandwidth limitations of mobile web traffic,” Simcock notes. However, “not allowing access to live radio streaming on mobile has left us with a very limited offering to mobile users,” he wrote (here).

A link to “Listen Live” is now present on BBC Radio mobile sites, allowing most phones (the iPhone and iPod Touch being notable exceptions) to listen to live streams. Wired notes (here) that these streams were previously available on mobile devices, but to find them users had to do some digging or download unofficial third-party apps.

NEARLY $300MM IN BACKLOGGED ROYALTIES GOING TO PUBLISHERS

Thanks to an settlement between the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and the Copyright Royalty Board, over $275 million in unpaid royalties dating back to the late 1990s will start to be distributed from record labels to publishers. “The NMPA has successfully requested to the CRB that music publishers and foreign societies be entitled to collect an annual 18% late fee from record companies and other distributors that are delinquent in payments and royalties,” reports the What’s Hot in Los Angeles Entertainment Law blog (here).



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