Turntable.fm Wins Over the Olds, Signs Crucial ASCAP Licensing Deal

phonograph Turntable.fm Wins Over the Olds, Signs Crucial ASCAP Licensing Deal

This party is wild, but 100% legal.

There has been a lot of hue and cry from writers and reporters wondering if the major labels would try to sue this summer’s most exciting news music app Turntable.fm. But today ASCAP announced that, not only were they proud to license their catalog to Turntable.fm, but it reminded them of the good old days, when people got together in actual spaces hang out and listen to records played. Or as ASCAP put it in their blog post – “A New Turntable?! No, not that Kind of Turntable!”

This post from PaidContent, Turntable.fm Has Lots of Buzz, But Will the Labels Crush It?, was repeated and retweeted ad-naseum around the web. “This story usually ends the same way.  Promising startup launches new service that is great for listeners and consumers, but doesn’t properly license the music it makes money off.  Record labels slap startup with enormous lawsuit and either get the service shut down or force unprofitable terms on the company that eventually drives it into bankruptcy.”

While that might have once been true, the music industry has reached an inflection point on streaming music. The entrance of Spotify to the U.S. is one sign of this. The fact that Turntable was able to nab an endorsement from ASCAP is another. We hear Sony Music has been courting Turntable.fm very hard. Record executives have seen the writing on the wall. Music is social, it’s digital and it’s always on, no matter what device you’re using.

The ASCAP license provides blanket coverage for songs streamed on web or mobile, although interestingly Betabeat has learned that Turntable.fm obtained the non-interactive license. This seems strange, given that the site allows DJs to choose what tracks they are playing. However, since the majority of listeners have no control of what song comes next, Turntable.fm may be hoping it can succeed with just the cheaper, non-interactive license.


  1. Frank Denbow says:

    This doesn’t really make sense to me. Turntable is more akin to internet radio than public performance, so the payments should go through Sound Exchange, not a PRO (performance rights organization). ASCAP and BMI are the 2 main PROs (along with EMI, which took their rights out of ASCAP recently) and are both really good about creating reasonable licensing terms and information, so not surprised that Turntable was able to get this through them. Maybe they are paying to both? I’m confused. 

    Spotify taking so long to come to the US is still a bad sign that even smart, connected successful people have a hard time bringing on-demand streaming services to market. That means its next to impossible for the rest of us (legally), regardless of how good the service is.

  2. Veronica says:

    I am wearing my lawyer hat here and trying to imagine myself in front os ASCAP.
    I would argue that with the service is non-interactive on the basis that:

    – 90% of the rooms have more than one DJ, so the playlist is still not controlled by any user

    – when there’s only one DJ, he/she can’t listen to the song he’s playing (even if he owns them!) so the performance rights are not due.

    Of course, it’s a stretch, but Turntable was intelligent enough to create this licensing loophole for itself, and it might set an interesting precedent.

    On the other hand, DJs are not happy with this artificial limitation. That might compromise the visionary idea of an app that “democratizes” the sacred tradition of record spinning, limiting it to a collaboration platform. Or maybe not. :)