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Should Musicians Opt Out Of Pandora’s Rdio Purchase?

Pandora-logoFollowing its recent purchase of a bankrupt Rdio, Pandora has sent out an email that music industry pundit David Lowery believes is misleading. In it, Lowery says, Pandora appears to be attempt to get rights holders to allow Pandora to use their music in its future projects.


Guest post by David Lowery of The Trichordist

Remember that Pandora is buying some assets from the Rdio bankruptcy with the intention to expand its webcasting service into a windowing service like Spotify?  How can they do that you may ask?  Don’t the licenses for those recordings and songs terminate in a bankruptcy?

Check your email - you may have received this notice from Pandora with the misleading subject line (with our emphasis): 

We’re writing in regard to Pandora’s recent announcement that it plans to acquire certain assets from Rdio.  We’re currently working to finalize the transaction and are extremely excited about the opportunities this acquisition will bring not only to Pandora, but to the music industry as a whole.  With that in mind, we wanted to reach out regarding your company’s musical compositions embodied in sound recordings (the “Content”) stored on Rdio’s servers. As part of our acquisition of Rdio’s assets, we would like to retain the Content contained on these servers for possible inclusion in expanded Pandora service offerings in the future.

To be clear, Pandora will not launch expanded service offerings without acquiring the appropriate licenses. In addition, we will access the Content for possible ingestion into our Music Genome Project. We believe that retaining this Content is the surest way for Pandora to include your compositions upon the launch of any expanded service.  However, if you would prefer that your musical compositions not be included at this time, please follow the link below and indicate your intent to opt-out.

Pandora Media, Inc.
2101 Webster St., Suite 1650
Oakland, CA 94610

Please click the following link if you wish to opt out:

Why are they sending this email around?  If Pandora wants to launch an on-demand service, they’re very likely going to need negotiated licenses or licenses like the ones Rdio already holds.  This is all new to Pandora–Pandora executives are to hiding behind the federal government to protect their business and guarantee them a multimillion dollar payday for that 14 bathroom vacation house they’ve always wanted.

2If Rdio has a license from you for your songs, Pandora may recognize that those licenses cannot be transferred from Rdio to Pandora in the Rdio bankruptcy.  Why else would they be asking you to opt in to a new license in this misleading email?  But wait…they never say they’re asking you to opt in, they’re offering you a chance to opt out.

And wait and see–if you don’t respond, they will say that they offered you a chance to opt out, so by not opting out they will deem you to have opted in.  Pretty scummy, right? And how do we know this?  Because it’s what a scumbag would do.  Then naturally its what Pandora would do.  Very predictable.

The problem is that you have no idea what the business model will be of whatever new service it is that Pandora may launch, so why in the world would anyone ever agree to a license for a business before you even know what the business is?  How would you ever know what’s fair? 

It seems like the only smart thing to do if you’ve gotten this email is to opt out immediately.  If you decide to opt out, it would probably be a good idea to follow up with a letter telling Pandora that you want no part of it.

Here’s an interesting side note.  Check out this sentence:

In addition, we will access the Content for possible ingestion into our Music Genome Project.

1That sounds like Music Genome rights would be included in whatever license Pandora wants, and if you opt out, Pandora would not have the rights to “ingest” (lovely) your songs.  It sounds like Pandora might think they need a license to map your song into Pandora’s “Music Genome”.  That’s interesting because we do, too.

We’ve thought for a long time that Pandora needed a license for each song in the Music Genome and that the use of an artist’s name to create channels also needed a separate license for the use of the artist’s name. 

Unless you’re in the habit of buying pigs in pokes, you could do worse than to opt out of any license you ever granted to Rdio and tell your publisher to do the same.  Once Pandora can tell you exactly what they want to do with your song, you can always change your mind.

After what they’ve done to artists and songwriters, who would ever trust these corrupt guys if the government didn’t force you to?