TIME Music Industry

Record Labels Suing Pandora Over Oldies

Major labels say Pandora is violating their copyrights to a slew of pre-1972 oldies like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. While federal copyright laws don't protect the older tunes, record labels argue that the music is protected by some states

Sony, Warner and several other major record labels are suing Pandora for copyright infringement, accusing the Internet radio mogul of playing pre-1972 songs by artists like Buddy Holly and the Rolling Stones without licenses.

The record companies argue that while the pre-1972 songs Pandora plays aren’t covered by federal copyright protection, they are protected by common law in states like New York, where the case was filed Thursday, the New York Times reports. The labels control the rights to a litany of major artists like the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, James Brown and others.

The record labels claim that Pandora is unjustly profiting from their artists, denying them tens of millions of dollars each year from Pandora and other streaming services.

“This case presents a classic attempt by Pandora to reap where it has not sown,” the labels say in the suit.

María Elena Holly, the widow of Buddy Holly, said in a statement: “Just because Buddy and the other ’50s musicians recorded songs before 1972 doesn’t mean their songs have no value. These companies’ failure to pay the rock ’n’ roll pioneers is an injustice and it needs to change.”

Pandora plays songs according to user-preferred categories like “Motown” or “60s Oldies.” The company said it was confident in its legal position.


TIME Music Industry

Wu-Tang Clan Says It’s Already Received $5 Million Offer for Secret Album

Paid Dues Independent Hip Hop Festival
Imeh Akpanudosen—Getty Images

Legendary hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan has an ambitious plan to promote its upcoming album by releasing just one copy to the world. Now the group’s frontman, the RZA, says the strategy is already paying off.

RZA, born Robert Diggs, told Billboard that the Clan has already received offers of up to $5 million for its upcoming album The Wu — Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The 31-track LP was recorded in secret over the last six years and will only be made available to a single buyer. Before being sold, the album will be demonstrated at museums and galleries in a kind of touring art exhibit that the group hopes will “provoke questions about the value and perception of music as a work of art in today’s world,” according to an official website for the album. RZA did not specify who the current interested parties are, but they could include record labels who want to distribute the album widely, wealthy magnates who want to donate the album to a museum for the public good, or really, really big Wu-Tang Clan fans.

The Wu-Tang album is the latest in a string of increasingly elaborate promotional stunts that artists are using to get people to pay attention to their music. Beyonce released a surprise album in December that crashed the iTunes Store, and her husband Jay-Z distributed his latest work via smartphone last summer. RZA cites both endeavors as inspiration for the Wu-Tang’s strategy.

TIME Music Industry

Cue the Sad Trombone: Global Music Sales Are Diving Again

Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

After a brief respite in 2012, a new report shows that global recorded music revenues slipped 3.9 percent in 2013 to $15 billion. Streaming platforms, however, continued to grow, topping $1 billion in sales for the first time

After a brief respite in 2012, music sales are once again on the decline. A new report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry shows that recorded music revenues slipped 3.9 percent last year to $15 billion globally.

A precipitous fall in revenue in Japan is mostly to blame. The country is the second-largest market for recorded music in the world, but sales fell by a huge 16.7 percent there in 2013 because of a decline in both physical music sales and older digital products such as ringtones. Taking Japan out of the equation, global music sales were nearly flat year-over-year, dipping by 0.1 percent from 2012 to 2013.

The biggest growth sector in the industry was once again in subscription services such as Spotify and Rdio. As the number of paying subscribers rose from 20 million to 28 million from 2012 to 2013, revenue from such platforms grew by 51 percent and topped $1 billion for the first time. Revenue from ad-supported streaming services like YouTube and the free version of Spotify also grew by more than 17 percent. In total more than a quarter of the industry’s $5.9 billion in digital revenues now comes from these free and subscription-based streaming options.

Physical music sales continued drive the majority of revenue for the industry, but likely for the last time. Physical formats comprised 51 percent of music sales last year, down from 56 percent in 2012. The rise of digital is expected to continue unabated for the foreseeable future.

The mixed data from the report cast 2013 as “a year of good news and bad news,” Universal Music Group International CEO Max Hole told Billboard. Another yearly decline—the 13th in the last 14 years—is not the step the industry wants to take as it tries to claw its way back to the heyday of the ‘90s, when global industry revenue was close to $30 billion. But executives are confident that people will one day pay for music subscription services en masse. The international CEO of Sony Music Entertainment told Billboard he expects 100 million people to sign up for music streaming services “in the near future.” The question is whether streaming will be able to rise fast enough to make up for ongoing declines in physical sales and, more recently, digital downloads. The IFPI report noted that digital download revenue dropped 2 percent last year.

Despite uncertainty about the industry’s future, the biggest pop stars are still doing quite well. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was the biggest single of the year. Taking into account track sales and streams, it sold 14.8 million units globally. “Blurred Lines” was followed by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop,” which sold 13.8 million units and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” which sold 13.4 million units (and is now the most-streamed song ever on Spotify).

On the album front, One Direction’s Midnight Memories took the 2013 crown, selling 4 million units globally. Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 followed with 3.8 million in sales, and Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience rounded out the top three with sales of 3.6 million. Beyonce’s self-titled album, a surprise December release that was only available on iTunes its first week, even snuck into the bottom of the top 10 with 2.3 million units sold.

TIME Music Industry

Apple Wants to Stop New Music From Hitting Spotify

An advertisement for Apple's iPod is displayed on the side of a London bus, Dec. 21, 2012.
An advertisement for Apple's iPod is displayed on the side of a London bus, Dec. 21, 2012. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple, the king of digital music sales, is reportedly going to great lengths to protect its crown from newcomers like Spotify and Beats Music. The company is pressuring major record labels to release albums on iTunes before they’re available from music streaming services, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Apple wants to establish a “new release window,” similar to the way movies are released in theaters well before they’re available on DVD or television. Billboard reported similar news last month. Apple declined to comment for this story.

The move would likely help shore up digital music download sales, which are on the decline. Digital track sales dipped for the first time ever in 2013, dropping from 1.34 billion to 1.26 billion, according to Nielsen Soundscan. Sales are down a further 12 percent so far this year, according to the Times. Apple is the biggest music retailer in the world, so this trend is bad for the company’s bottom line. The tech giant will likely try to convince record labels that the decline is also bad for them. If listeners stick to the free, ad-supported versions of services like Spotify instead of paying $10 per month for the full experience, industry revenue would decline.

Apple has already had some successes in its campaign for exclusive content. Beyonce’s self-titled surprise album debuted first on iTunes in December and became the fastest-selling digital album ever, moving one million units globally in its first five days in the online store. The album’s still not available for streaming on Spotify or Beats Music. More recently, Kid Cudi released his own surprise album first on iTunes and other digital retailers, selling 87,000 units in week one. Apple has also been offering pre-release listens to heavily anticipated albums through its iTunes Store for the past year. Major LPs such as Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and Rick Ross’s Mastermind all streamed on iTunes before their release dates.

A shift to more iTunes exclusives would rankle not only Spotify but also physical retailers, who still sell the majority of albums in the United States. The different retailers already squabble over exclusive bonus tracks for big releases. Oxymoron, the current No. 1 album in the country from rapper Schoolboy Q, features two iTunes-exclusive tracks and two just for Target customers. If these types of pitched battles expand to encompass album release windows, that could benefit artists, who will likely get a big marketing push from a retailer who has netted an exclusive. But such windowing would hurt music fans, who would find themselves with fewer ways to enjoy new music. In fact, it’s already started—Target refused to carry Beyonce’s album because it lost out on first-week sales to Apple.


Q&A: Why Taylor Swift Thinks Nashville Is the Best Place on Earth

Taylor Swift at the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Taylor Swift at the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif. Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez—AFP/Getty Images

"Sorry, not sorry, I just love it here"

Nashville is more than the heart of Taylor Swift’s business, it’s her home. But the city she came to as 13-year-old aspiring singer has grown far beyond its musical roots; it’s now an economic and cultural powerhouse. TIME’s Alex Rogers spoke to Swift about her favorite city for this week’s magazine feature which looks at the unique alchemy that makes Nashville both a classic American city and a modern success story. Here are excerpts of their conversation.

TIME: Why did you decide to live in Nashville?

SWIFT: I decided to move to Nashville when I was about 10 years old. I was obsessed with watching biography TV shows about Faith Hill and Shania Twain, and I noticed that both of them went to Nashville to start their careers. From that point on, I began relentlessly nagging, begging, and pleading with my parents to take me on a trip there. When I was 11, my mom took my brother and me to Nashville on spring break and we drove up and down Music Row. She would wait in the car as I scampered into record labels one by one, handing my demo CD to the receptionists. I remember thinking it was so odd and wonderful that all of these important record labels were all on one street, most of them in small buildings and old houses. I remember being charmed by how kind people were to strangers and newcomers like us. We took more and more trips to Nashville as time went by, and when at 13, I was offered a development deal by a major record label, my parents gave in and we moved from Pennsylvania.

TIME: Have you ever considered moving your operations to L.A. or New York?

SWIFT: I love L.A. and New York and I spend a lot of time there promoting albums and doing photo shoots. I’ve been lucky enough to find friends who live in New York, L.A., and Nashville, so none of those cities ever feel foreign or lonely. Choosing to have my management company based in Nashville just made sense because my family is there as well as my record label. I never think about moving home bases. It’s hard to describe why you consider a town your home base, except that when people ask me “Where’s home?”, I don’t even think before I say “Nashville.”

TIME: How much time do you spend in Nashville?

SWIFT: I spend as much time in Nashville as I can. The cool thing about spending time in Nashville is that no one knows when I’m there. In New York and L.A., there are photographers waiting on the street, and it seems like every errand I run is photographed and documented. You don’t see as much evidence of me spending time in Nashville, because I’m not being photographed at the grocery store. I’m just able to wander around the grocery store and make casual conversation with the girl standing next to me in the produce aisle.

TIME: How has Nashville changed over the years?

SWIFT: Nashville has changed so much since I moved here almost ten years ago. It’s become a popular, trendy place to live for families and young professionals. It’s become a well-known music hub for genres other than just country. There are now fantastic, highly acclaimed restaurants and top of the line hotels. New high-rise buildings have popped up every time I come home and I think it’s so awesome that Nashville is booming. The attention it’s getting is well deserved.

TIME: How close is the city’s country music community?

SWIFT: The country music community is the closest musical community I’ve witnessed. I see a different songwriter or producer I’ve worked with almost every time I’m out to dinner. All of the artists know each other. Half of us have opened up for the other half on tour, and we’ve met each other at some radio station or awards show. I could list at least five other country artists who live in my apartment building, so I actually run into them in the elevator on a regular basis.

TIME: What’s your favorite spot in the city?

SWIFT: I absolutely love the parks and trails. There’s a park called Radnor Lake that’s gorgeous on a fall day. I’ve had some of my best days walking there with my dad, talking about life. Another huge priority for me is having a good coffee place to go and hang out. Fido has such a great atmosphere, and you can wander around browsing the shops in Hillsboro Village once you’re there. I love driving past the Bluebird Cafe, because that’s where I played the acoustic show that ended up getting me a record deal. The other areas where I like to go for cute restaurants and shopping are 12th South and East Nashville. Now I have to stop because I sound like I am the president of the Nashville Tourism Board. Sorry, not sorry, I just love it here.

TIME Music Industry

Spotify Just Bought Access to Your Online Music Listening Habits


Streaming service Spotify is betting that the future of music will be powered by Big Data. The company announced today that it is purchasing the Echo Nest, a music intelligence company that helps power Internet radio for Spotify competitors like iHeartRadio, Rdio, and Xbox Music.

The Echo Nest has a database of over 35 million songs and tracks how people listen to them on various streaming services, talk about them on social media and write about them on music websites. The company says it has amassed over one trillion data points about these songs, which it uses to predict what track a given listener will want to hear next.

Now Spotify owns all that information. The company says the purchase will allow it improve its own music discovery engine. Though the streaming service is most famous for allowing customers to listen to any song on-demand for free, it also has an Internet radio option that functions similarly to Pandora. Spotify also tries to nudge users into listening to new albums and tracks based on the artists they’ve enjoyed previously, but its recommendation engine is famously off-base sometimes.

In addition to improving the user experience, the purchase could help Spotify sell more ads. The Echo Nest recently began using its massive trove of data to help companies serve listeners better targeted ads based on their musical taste. Other companies, like Pandora, are also trying to leverage this type of data to sell targeted political ads.

As an independent company, Echo Nest has revealed some ambitious goals for the future of music discovery. Paul Lamere, the director of developer platforms (and the creator of a recent set of viral maps that showed the 50 states’ listening habits using Echo Nest data), recently told Fast Company that the music apps of the future will have a “zero-button interface” in which the services use the context of a situation to automatically serve up an appropriate song for a listener. Songza and Beats Music have already begun going down this route, allowing people to create auto-generating playlists based on their mood and location. Spotify could be next.

It’s not clear how much the purchase will affect Spotify’s competitors. The Echo Nest’s API will remain open to developers, and a Spotify rep told Gizmodo that The Echo Nest will continue to meet all its contractual obligations with other music services. But all of the data the company scrapes will now be at Spotify’s disposal, and the streaming service will be free to cut off the spigot from others once their contracts expire.

TIME Music Industry

Why Bruno Mars Won’t Get Paid for His Super Bowl Halftime Show

Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show Press Conference
Al Pereira / FilmMagic

On Super Bowl Sunday, Pop superstar Bruno Mars will be on stage in front of an audience likely to top 100 million. But he won’t make a dime for his performance.

The singer-songwriter, famous for hits like “Grenade” and “Locked Out of Heaven,” won’t receive any payment from the NFL for his 12-minute halftime show, which will also feature the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Though the league has attracted acts as varied as Beyonce, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson to perform during its biggest game in the past, it has never paid any of them.

“We’re putting someone up there for 12 and a half minutes in front of the largest audience that any television program garners in the United States,” NFL Director of Programming Lawrence Randall, told TIME last year. “It’s a pretty good deal. It’s the famous win-win for both parties.”

Indeed, the Super Bowl is often the biggest stage any artist gets to play. Beyonce’s performance last year, which featured a surprise reunion of her group Destiny’s Child, pulled in about 104 million viewers and was one of the most-watched moments of the entire game. Madonna attracted 112.5 million viewers the year before with a wide-ranging medley that included guest spots by Cee Lo Green, M.I.A. and LMFAO.

The huge exposure regularly leads to a big sales boost for artists. Album sales for Beyonce and Destiny’s Child jumped 40 percent the week after last year’s Super Bowl. The bump has been even more pronounced for older bands like the Who, whose Greatest Hits album more than doubled in sales after their halftime show in 2010.

It will be interesting to measure the impact of Mars’ performance. He’s a more contemporary choice than many past acts, and some have questioned whether he has the broad appeal necessary for the Super Bowl stage. But Mars has already racked up five chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold more than 10 million albums in his four-year solo career.

[MORE: A Look Back At The Sexiest Super Bowl Commercials]

TIME Music Industry

These Are the Artists Getting Huge Sales Boosts From the Grammys

56th GRAMMY Awards - Red Carpet
Daft Punk attends the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Michael Kovac / WireImage

A memorable performance or a big win at the Grammy Awards can lead to a large sales boost for artists. Early data show that Daft Punk, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar were among the biggest financial winners from music’s big night.

With awards for Album of the Year for Random Access Memories and Record of the Year for “Get Lucky” (along with a highly praised performance with Stevie Wonder), Daft Punk seems to have gotten the biggest Grammy boost of anyone. Random Access Memories increased its weekly sales by 91 percent for the week ending Jan. 26, the night of the Grammys. “Get Lucky,” meanwhile saw its sales increase 206 percent week-over-week, while its streams on Spotify increased by 205 percent on the Monday after the awards show.

Other artists who did not win any awards but still made waves are also reaping rewards. Taylor Swift, who lost out to Daft Punk for Album of the Year, actually got a bigger boost for her album Red, which increased in sales by 105 percent week-over-week. And Kendrick Lamar, who had a rousing performance with Imagine Dragons but lost in several categories, saw sales of his debut LP good kid, m.A.A.d. city jump 63 percent week-over-week and streams of his Spotify catalogue jump 99 percent the day after the show.

Those three were hardly the only ones to cash in on their Grammy success. Here’s a roundup of some other notable boosts in both music sales and streams from Spotify:

  • Lorde’s catchy anthem “Royals” saw a modest jump in sales (17 percent) and her overall catalogue got a slightly bigger boost in Spotify streams (46 percent)

  • Sales of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hit “Same Love” jumped 128 percent, while their album The Heist increased 38 percent in sales

  • Beyonce earned a 52 percent increase in Spotify streams for “Drunk in Love” after her provocative performance with Jay-Z at the start of the show

  • Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest, which was nominated for Album of the Year, jumped 92 percent in sales week-over-week

  • Paul McCartney, who reunited with Ringo Starr for a performance, saw his streams increase 126 percent on Spotify

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