Bloomberg News

Turntable.fm Is in Talks With Music Labels for Licensing Deal

September 14, 2011

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Turntable.fm, a social-media site that lets people share songs with friends and other Web users, is in talks with the four major record labels about a licensing deal, Chief Executive Officer Billy Chasen said.

The New York-based startup is seeking an agreement that will allow users to legally stream music in the U.S. and abroad, Chasen said yesterday in an interview on “Bloomberg West.” The company is in discussions with Universal Music Group, EMI Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, as well as Merlin BV, which represents independent labels.

“We want to grow internationally,” Chasen said. “Part of that is talking with all the labels and getting deals and licenses in place.”

Turntable.fm is competing for listeners with Internet-radio provider Pandora Media Inc. and European music service Spotify Ltd. Pandora, which held an initial public offering in June, is shut out from overseas markets because it operates under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which only provides a license for streaming music in the U.S. After building its base in Europe, Spotify began accepting U.S. users in July, following more than a year of negotiations with record companies.

Turntable is trying to create a type of licensing agreement that hasn’t been done before, Chasen said. He didn’t say if it would pay per song streamed or share revenue with the labels. The company currently pays a fee for each stream.

‘Super Eager’

“Both sides are super eager to get this done, and we’re getting closer,” Chasen said. “We take very seriously the music labels and publishers, and we want to make sure they’re with us.”

Liz Young, a spokeswoman for Sony Music, declined to comment, as did Peter Lofrumento at Universal Music. Warner Music’s Will Tanous and EMI’s Dylan Jones didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment. A message left after hours at Merlin’s London office also wasn’t immediately returned.

Turntable debuted earlier this year and remains smaller than its competitors. The service, which requires users to log in using their Facebook Inc. accounts, has about 600,000 users. That compares with more than 100 million for Oakland, California-based Pandora. Spotify, based in London, reached 1 million subscribers in March, with millions more using an advertising-supported version.

Turntable said yesterday that it raised $7 million from investors led by Union Square Ventures, whose managing partner, Fred Wilson, is joining the company’s board. Other investors include First Round Capital, Polaris Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital, as well as Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s manager, and Guy Oseary, who founded Maverick Records with Madonna.

Turntable also released a free mobile version of its software for Apple Inc.’s iPhone yesterday. The computer version of Turntable.fm required Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash, a program that doesn’t work on the iPhone and iPad mobile devices.

--Editors: Nick Turner, Jillian Ward

To contact the reporters on this story: Ari Levy in San Francisco at alevy5@bloomberg.net; Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net; Emily Chang in San Francisco at echang68@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net; Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net


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