Pandora, the popular U.S. online music service filed for an initial public offering last week, provided new insight into hugely popular company that spends millions of dollars in copyright royalties. Pandora users listened to a billion hours of music in the last three months of 2010. Given U.S. laws, the Pandora prospectus notes that it paid for the privilege of having its users do so, with the company spending just over half of its revenue on copyright fees – $45 million in the first nine months of 2010.
The numbers are striking since it points to a growing source of revenue that is largely being missed in Canada. Millions of dollars are now generated from online streaming royalties in the U.S., yet many companies are avoiding the Canadian market. The reason, as Pandora explained last year, are the royalty demands of the major record labels. As Tim Westergren stated last fall, “as long as rights societies take this approach, they will prevent Pandora from launching to Canadian users.” While CRIA tried to claim that the decision to avoid the market was a function of Canadian copyright law, Pandora indicated that it is the fee demands, not the laws that are the stumbling block. With millions now being paid for streaming music in the U.S., it is notable that Canadian interests would seemingly prefer to receive nothing rather than the millions that could potentially be on the table.