Move over Daniel Ek and Lucian Grainge, Greg Maffei is now the most powerful executive in the music industry. Maffei is the president and CEO of Liberty Media, Chairman of Live Nation Entertainment and Chairman of SiriusXM, which yesterday acquired Pandora.
If that’s not enough to make Maffei music’s new king, Liberty Media also controls 71% of SiriusXM and 34% of Live Nation stock.
The potential for synergies, marketing partnerships and even new deals between Liberty’s many entertainment related holdings are obvious. But for musicians and the music industry, the potential dangers are significant.
In addition to the continuing corporatization of music, the two music companies that most aggressively fought to lower payments to songwriters and labels just became one.
SiriusXM and Pandora Led Fight To Pay Musicians Less
SiriusXM and Pandora spent millions in lawyers and lobbyists in recent year trying to lower non-interactive streaming rates and exploit a loophole to avoid payment on pre-1972 music all together. Pandora eventually gave up the fight, but not before moves that included buying a rural radio station to make the point that broadcast radio doesn’t pay any performance royalties at all.
But under Maffei, SiriusXM kept up their efforts to pay musicians and rights holders as little as possible. They’ve now gone quiet for the moment, because they won much of what they wanted during the recent fight over the Music Modernization Act.
Throughout the MMA battle, SiriusXM opposed the portion of the bill called the CLASSICS Act which closes a loophole and assures payment for pre-1972 music. The full bill eventually went through, but only after SiriusXM received concessions, including a multi-year freeze on overall rate increases.
Their reported ace in the whole during the MMA fight? Two Senators in their pockets that were ready to oppose any voice vote (even one Senator could have stopped it), as well as, add amendments that would stall passage and possibly kill it altogether.
Liberty Media+ Live Nation
+ SiriusXM + Pandora
With yesterday’s Pandora acquisition, investors are now pushing Maffei and Liberty or its SiriusXM subsidiary to take a controlling interest in Live Nation. The fully combined Liberty + Live Nation + SiriusXM + Pandora would create an entertainment powerhouse, they argue.
And given the current administration and the fact their there is real competition in every sector except satellite radio, such a deal would like get past anti-trust regulations.
Beware: Greg Maffei is now music’s most powerful executive.
PS: Last year Liberty tried to purchase a troubled iHeartRadio, the biggest owner of radio stations in the U.S.