Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pandora boxed

"Rutger Hauer" has shared with us an email he's just received from Pandora, the streaming music service based on the Music Genome Project. It's been entertaining listeners with a choice of music that reflects their tastes. Up until now, at least:

As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US.

Based upon the IP address from which you recently visited Pandora, it appears that you are listening from the UK. If you are, in fact, listening from the US, and are denied access from Pandora on or after January 15th please contact Pandora Support: pandora-support@pandora.com.

It continues to astound me and the rest of the team here that the industry is not working more constructively to support the growth of services that introduce listeners to new music and that are totally supportive of paying fair royalties to the creators of music. I don't often say such things, but the course being charted by the labels and publishers and their representative organizations is nothing short of disastrous for artists whom they purport to represent - and by that I mean both well known and indie artists. The only consequence of failing to support companies like Pandora that are attempting to build a sustainable radio business for the future will be the continued explosion of piracy, the continued constriction of opportunities for working musicians, and a worsening drought of new music for fans. As a former working musician myself, I find it very troubling.

We have been told to sign these totally unworkable license rates or switch off, non-negotiable...so that is what we are doing. Streaming illegally is just not in our DNA, and we have to take the threats of legal action seriously. Lest you think this is solely an international problem, you should know that we are also fighting for our survival here in the US, in the face of a crushing increase in web radio royalty rates, which if left unchanged, would mean the end of Pandora.

We know what an epicenter of musical creativity and fan support the UK has always been, which makes the prospect of not being able to launch there and having to block our first listeners all the more upsetting for us.

We know there is a lot of support from listeners and artists in the UK for Pandora and remain hopeful that at some point we'll get beyond this. We're going to keep fighting for a fair and workable rate structure that will allow us to bring Pandora back to you. We'll be sure to let you know if Pandora becomes available in the UK. There may well come a day when we need to make a direct appeal for your support to move for governmental intervention as we have in the US. In the meantime, we have no choice but to turn off service to the UK.

Pandora will stop streaming to the UK as of January 15th, 2008.

Again, on behalf of all of us at Pandora, I'm very, very sorry.

So another innovative service bringing new music to audiences is axed - and not even due to the greed of the labels, but down to the increasingly-inflexible collection agencies. It's difficult to understand why bodies which supposedly are there to represent the interests of musicians is forcing closure of services which are building their audiencess and offering to make fair payments for the music.

The irony, of course, is that by shuttering services which set out to do the right thing and pay what they can, the MCPS/PPL are merely encouraging the emergence of models which sidestep the legal structure altogether.

The labels - slowly, too late - are starting to realise their strategies are failing; it looks like we're going to have to wait an age for the change of mind to filter through to their front organisations.


Anonymous said...

Damn damn damn, this is bad news..
I've been listening to Pandora for a year or two now, and love the huge amount of music available for my ears, stuff I know and stuff I don't, along with such an easy to use interface. I've bought a good number of albums based on what I've heard on Pandora, too.
God these people are just so short sighted...

Duncan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duncan said...

Those of you who still want to listen can find out how to do so here:


Anonymous said...

Sympathies to non-US listeners. I'm worried about Pandora's continued existence here in the US and will be quite put out if anything happens to it. It's the place that introduced me to Placebo, for Hastur's sake.

Duncan said...

Placebo? You poor thing... :)

Anonymous said...

pandora stopped working for me (prague) months before this, and i do not think that its crators will be able to work something out for my small county. dhango, a simila rproject, is fortunately still working

Anonymous said...

Duncan: Hardly. Also, your posted link can't be fully seen, at least not in Firefox. But points for trying, eh?

Robert Shaw said...

Sob! I just got this email to, having (I thought, craftily) circumvented the US/non-US thing by giving it the zip code of the White House. But Pandora is working for me with a web proxy with the charming monicker of www.hidemyass.com

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