SiriusXM Satellite Radio has agreed to pay a group of record labels $210 million for the right to broadcast recordings made prior to 1972. Music recorded before that date is covered only by varying state laws and not subject to the same federal copyright laws as records released after 1972.
Streaming services were under fire recently for not paying artist royalties for some of the tunes they play. Specifically, Apple's new Apple Music streaming service was publicly criticized by pop star Taylor Swift for refusing to pay artist royalties on tunes streamed by potential customers availing themselves of the three-month free trial offered by the service. The company quickly reversed course after being publicly shamed by Swift in an open letter.
Satellite radio service SiriusXM has been relatively under the radar as of late, but the popular music service has also just made news—for agreeing to pay royalties on music recorded prior to 1972. The company has several dedicated stations that play golden oldies exclusively from that period, and in 2013 a group of record labels, including Capitol Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Warner Music Group and ABKCO Music, sued SiriusXM in search of payment for use of the music they control. The labels represent over 80 percent of the pre-1972 music that SiriusXM plays.
Under the agreement, SiriusXM will pay the labels over $200 million for the rights to the songs through 2017, after which it can negotiate further agreements with the labels.
"This is a great step forward for all music creators," said Cary Sherman, chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. "Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015."
Now that SiriusXM has agreed to pay royalties on pre-1972 music, the RIAA hopes other outlets, specifically streaming services such as Pandora, follow suit. The company has expressed support for a federal law that covers older music, which makes up just a small percentage of the material streamed by Pandora.