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Opposition to online streaming has been intense this summer. Songwriters, performers, and various music companies have spoken out against the meager royalties the streaming giants Spotify and Pandora dish out to musicians. Many prominent and influential artists have taken their music off Spotify. It seems that these streaming companies are in the business of fixing and maintaining their reputation against the onslaught of musicians and have little time left over for developing and improving their core competency – streaming music.

This past week, Pandora won an important court case against ASCAP, which solidly reiterates what was already written in copyright law. Spotify is an “interactive streaming service,” meaning users can skip as many songs as they like and choose what song or artist they want to listen to at any given moment. Because of this function, it almost replaces the need to own music. Musicians therefore have the right to choose to license or not to license. Pandora, on the other hand, is a “non-interactive streaming service,” and functions similarly to terrestrial radio. Like terrestrial radio, there is a compulsory license in place, requiring artists to license their music if they are associated with a PRO like ASCAP. This is why you hear about artists taking their music off Spotify, but not Pandora.

So what does this court case actually mean? Basically it removes the possibility of getting through any loopholes to take music off Pandora. If an artist wants to boycott Pandora, their only option is to remove all their music from performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Publishers and songwriters are not allowed not allowed to make separate, market-driven deals with Pandora if they are also a member of a collecting society. Pandora had made private copyright deals with prominent publishers like Sony, EMI, Universal, and BMG, requiring the streaming company to pay a higher royalty rate to their artists. This court decision will most likely void those deals and prevent any similar deals from happening in the future.

While most artists wouldn’t dream of taking their music off their PRO, the possibilities for direct licensing are becoming easier with new technology. In a few years, big record labels and publishing companies may have these functions in-house.

For more information on this topic, check out these two articles from Digital Music News (article 1, article 2).

With all this conflict in the streaming industry, there is little room for improvement and progression. Streaming companies are fighting rights holders and rights holders are speaking out against unfair royalties. Not to mention, the lawsuits are creating a further rift between modern artists and the copyright law, serving as a confirmation to many that copyright law is not caught up with modern society.  This battle between the law, the streaming services, and the musicians does not equate to a healthy industry. Streaming companies will stagnate if they refuse to grow with artists, and artists will lose out on opportunity if they insist on shutting streaming services down their early in the game. Surely we can move forward and find a solution together?

What are your thoughts on music streaming? Should artists be concerned about taking their music down? Does the exposure make up for the small royalties? Can this ever be a healthy industry?

In this economy, it’s hard to imagine anyone making thousands of phone calls trying to give money away. But that’s exactly what is happening as Sound Exchange contacts musicians who have earned, but not yet claimed, digital performance royalties.  And they are building their database fast, by tapping into the cloud of musician profiles available online. How cool is that?

Sound Exchange is a performing rights organization undertaking a massive education campaign about the fact that the rights and revenue exist, and how to go about getting the money.  In the past few months alone, thousands of artists have been contacted.

When sound recordings are streamed on the Internet, played on digital satellite radio, or used on cable music channels, the performers on that recording accrue a small royalty. Those digital performance royalties are collected by SoundExchange, who processes logs from services and distributes the payments to artists. Unlike other royalty societies, who collect and distribute only to their members, SoundExchange collects royalties for all performers, then has to locate and register artists so they can be paid.

If you want to get paid, you have to register with them at Sound Exchange. If you think your music has been played on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio, Internet radio such as Pandora, Yahoo, Live 365.com and AOL, or on digital cable and satellite TV services like Comcast’s “Music Choice” and DirecTV, you can collect.

The data being collected by today’s digital music companies is being knitted together to connect the dots between online listeners and the copyright holders.  By partnering with CD Baby, ReverbNation, SonicBids, Nimbit and others, Sound Exchange is tapping into the long tail of the market, and rewarding musicians who have online profiles – with cash.

CD Baby says they were notified by Sound Exchange that many of their artists were owed money.  They matched their databases and found that thousands of artists had not registered with Sound Exchange and therefore were not receiving their payments. CD Baby then reached out to these members with the good news.

According to iLike founder Ali Partovi, a database matching effort for artists that had uploaded their information onto iLike found more than $8 million for more than 8,000 artists. According to Partovi, the $8 million was just a first-run effort, and a broader initiative involving MySpace Music remains forthcoming. “MySpace has a much larger database, so we’ll be unlocking even more money.”

To stake your claim visit Sound Exchange, or to send an email to info@soundexchange.com