Currently, Sirius/XM pays digital public performance royalties to SoundExchange for the music it plays; SoundExchange then distributes 50 percent of the royalties to the sound recording copyright owner (usually a label) and 45 percent to the featured performer. The non-featured performers receive the remaining 5 percent.
Under the current structure, the money doesn’t pass through the record labels first; payments to performers are made directly and simultaneously, which meansthe performer gets his/her money for the digital performances whether they’ve recouped or not. And in some cases, performers are receiving checks with four or five figures on it, and the money keeps growing with each distribution.
If labels start to license to Sirius/XM directly, guess who gets all the money? The labels. Artists will no longer be paid directly and simultaneously via SoundExchange. Instead, their money would be passed through their label.
How much Sirius/XM pays SoundExchange is based on a rate set by the Copyright Royalty Board with input from stakeholders, in compliance with federal statute. Currently, Sirius/XM pays 7.5 percent of its gross revenue…Then there’s this. Billboard reported in August:
The question arises if the labels will pay the artist half the royalty, or 50 percent, they receive for each time a song is played, or will some labels choose to pay them their artists the regular royalty rate, which typically ranges between 15 percent and 20 percent.
In moving to directly license masters, the company is seeking expanded licenses that will allow for more functionality. For example, it wants to allow subscribers to record programming blocks and be able to rewind and fast-forward that segment. It also is seeking to allow music to be cached locally on devices and applications that have that capability. In seeking the former, it is in effect asking for a waiver from the sound recording performance complement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which limits how many times songs from an artist can be played within an hour.
That would make satellite radio much closer to on-demand services like Rhapsody, MOG or Spotify, which operate under an entirely different licensing structure. Even non-interactive services like Pandora currently pay a different rate than satellite radio. By bypassing SoundExchange, Sirius/XM could up paying an even lower fee for expanded offerings.
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