Its candle burned bright for but a short time. Now Turntable.fm, which has been getting buzz lately for its online DJ music service, has gone dark everywhere outside the U.S., apparently because it never had licenses to stream music overseas.
Visitors are now told: “We’re very sorry, but while we would love to let you in and rock out with us, we need to currently restrict turntable access to only the United States due to licensing constraints. We are working very hard to try and get you in as soon as possible.”
Sound familiar? Pandora (NYSE: P) exited the UK and everywhere except the States in 2008, citing excessive royalty costs. It hoisted a message on its homepage to non-Americans: “We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora.” But, to this day, Pandora has not made a breakthrough.
Turntable.fm visitors use avatars to listen to music and then play it for on-site friends. It counts 140,000 users.
The company was founded by Seth Goldstein and Billy Chasen, who previously created Stickybits, and raised angel funding from Chris Sacca.
In each country, services that use music must obtain a license and pay for tracks used. Techdirt blames “stupid” overseas royalty rate levels for the exits of Pandora and Turntable.fm. That’s certainly the case in standout countries like Germany, where, in a dispute that long ago prompted YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) to pull music videos offline, even major labels are now accusing their royalty collector of asking too much. But the issues with going overseas are much more complicated than just royalty payments and, for a small startup like Turntable.fm, also include mundane aspects like staffing, compliance and generally having a basic understanding of how non-U.S. markets work.
Check our recent article about companies finding it hard to scale overseas.