Revenue Sharing by Webcasters and Record Labels – Back in 2007, the government agency regulating online radio – SoundExchange – set exorbitant rates for streaming music which could have put Pandora and many webcasters out of business. Now in effect is a new “pureplay” agreement good for a decade, by which webcasters pay artists and rights owners a minimum percentage of all their revenues up to 25%, and pay a more significant annual minimum royalty instead of payments per individual streams. The director of SoundExchange said, “Time will tell if revenue sharing is the right move for both the recording community and webcasters.” According to research group NPD, online radio services lead to a 41% increase in paid downloads, but Pandora – the darling of the music labels and most popular streaming site – usage leads to a 13% decrease in paid downloads.
New Streaming Subscription Music Service – The founders of Skype launched in August a new service called Rdio, and it just received a new round of $17.5 million in funding. Rdio made a deal with Sonos wireless music servers, and hopes to strike more partnerships to catch up with MOG and Rhapsody, both of which last month announced distribution deal with Verizon. The complexity of music licensing in this crowded space makes it difficult. Rdio has eight million songs, and lets you look at recommendations from friends or others with similar tastes. They recently tied up with Facebook. Rdio is $10 a month for unlimited music listening, but licensing music is expensive and there are only so many hardcore music fans. Spotify – with its over 10 million songs – might be a strong competitor if it ever launches in the U.S.
Component Audio Resurgent Market – According to estimates from the Consumer Electronics Association, component audio offset the sales declines in all other major audio categories in 2010 to boost factory-level home audio sales by 6.1% to $3.78 billion. Home audio includes components, compact systems, HTiBs systems, multi-room AV components, MP3-player speaker systems, home radios and clock radios. (Sound bars are categorized as components if they do not include an embedded or bundled DVD or Blu-ray player and as TIBs if they do.) The CEA report said that the resurgence of home audio components is an undeniable signal that consumers are spending money and beginning to focus more on audio. They pointed out that with the household penetration of flat-panel displays ascendant at 72%, they had predicted that improving audio performance would be a logical and likely source of consumer attention. Within the components category, receiver volume grew an estimated 32.7% and speaker volume grew 43.8%, and these percentages pale behind the growth rate for sound bars. The survey showed a 51% household penetration rate for MP3 players for January, and MP3 players will be integrated into 50% of component receivers, 80.7% of HTiBs and 72.2% of compact stereo systems.
George Shearing Dies at Age 91 – The witty British blind jazz pianist who composed “Lullaby of Birdland” and was a unique performer with and without his quintet passed away in Manhattan Monday of heart failure. Sir George Shearing had been a jazz star since soon after arriving in the U.S. in 1947 and he remained active well into his 80s.