Pandora Announces Licensing Deals -- With Everyone But Warner Music

Tim Westergren
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images 

Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora Media Inc., sits for a photograph after a Bloomberg Studio 1.0 television interview in San Francisco, Calif. on April 15, 2015. 

Tim Westergren really wants to launch his company's new streaming service.

Pandora has released a relatively bizarre press release this morning, announcing that it has struck licensing deals with three of the four major recording industry entities -- Universal Music, Sony Music and indie label trade body Merlin -- as well as Sony-owned distributor The Orchard and "over 30 other independent labels and distributors."

Regardless, the release may seem to be aimed at putting pressure on Warner Music Group, the one major label yet to strike a deal with the company. But a source tells Billboard that Pandora is very close to a deal with Warner Music -- closing it up today wouldn't be a surprise -- and that Westergren is eager to beat Amazon to the launch of its own, imminent "full-featured" streaming service.

The deals come ahead of, and are necessary for, its launch of a new streaming service built from the remains of the defunct Rdio. Tim Westergren, Pandora's CEO, is clearly tired of sitting on his hands.

When asked why the release was issued despite lacking Warner Music's signature, a Pandora rep says "we felt we had more than enough good news" and that Warner was fully aware that the release was being issued.

A press release similar to the one released this morning was, a source tells Billboard, drafted over the weekend and circulating as of yesterday (Sept. 12).

Westergren is confident in his company's new product, as he repeatedly the Citi Global Technologies Conference on Sept. 7. "It takes innovation on user experience, which I think Pandora is going to bring." But the "first order of business is owning the U.S.," he said, in conversation with Citigroup analyst Mark Kelley. Previously, the would have been due to this country's somewhat unique statutory licensing system, which allows music to be "webcast" by paying a standard rate instead of getting approval from labels and publishers. However, Pandora has struck direct deals with most major recording stakeholders in the past year, obviating the need for statutory licenses... and opening the door to international expansion.