Is Pandora set to return to the UK?

There’s a rumour moving up and down La Croisette at Midem in Cannes this weekend: Pandora is making enquiries amongst rights-holders regarding a possible return to the UK.

The streaming personalised radio platform currently only operates in three territories: New Zealand, Australia and the US.

Although it boasts around 80m unique monthly listeners, Pandora has struggled to move outside of these markets due to licensing restrictions.

Pandora quit the UK in 2008, citing excessive streaming royalty rate demands from CMO PRS For Music.

In a 2012 piece for PaidContent, Pandora founder Tim Westergren (pictured) wrote: “The current rate demanded by PRS of 0.065 pence per listener per track equates to 47% of the revenue Pandora achieved on a per listener per track basis in the year we just completed, during which we generated $274 million (£172) in revenue and were the clear leader in monetising internet radio.”

However, some suggest that Pandora is now taking steps to possibly re-launch its service – in some capacity – in the UK.

Its revenues have since grown to the point that it expects to turn over $1bn this year – although profits haven’t been forthcoming.

Meetings have now been set up with leading publishers in the UK to discuss wriggle room for new direct licensing agreements, MBW understands.

Pandora could feasibly secure direct licensing deals with the likes of SOLAR – the body that represents Sony/ATV (and EMI’s) repertoire across Europe. Although administered by PRS/GEMA, Sony/ATV would ultimately call the shots in a prospective Pandora deal.

The same is true for UMPG’s D.E.A.L hub – administered by SACEM across Europe – and other pan-European examples.

In order to launch legitimately in the UK and/or Europe, though, Pandora would also have to agree rates with recorded music rights-holders.

Last time round, this meant obtaining a performance license from PPL – whose rates Westergren also blamed for the previous collapse of Pandora in the UK.

At the time, he castigated PRS and PPL in an open letter discussing Pandora’s retraction. He wrote:

“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.”

On the other side of the debate, Pandora paying $0.0014 per ad-funded stream to artists/labels – and 4% of gross revenue to songwriters/publishers – in the US is pretty “troubling” for many, too.

Just ask Rodney Jerkins...Music Business Worldwide

Related Posts