Songwriters Respond: “This Is Another Sad Step in Pandora’s War Against Us…”

Pandora says they’re merely angling to get the same rate as their competitor, iHeartRadio, who pays lower royalties because its parent is a broadcast radio conglomerate.  Then again, if Pandora is such a friend to musicians and songwriters, why are they always trying to pay them less?  

Which brings us to this: almost immediately after Pandora disclosed its purchase of a small radio station in South Dakota to achieve lower royalties, major songwriter associations started declaring war back.  “This is yet another sad step in Pandora’s war against songwriters,” National Music Publishers’ Association president David Israelite told Digital Music News.  “While other digital music partners choose to enter into voluntary licensing deals, Pandora chooses to try to enrich itself through a strategy of suing creators and gimmicks.”

“The only positive development from this is that Pandora has removed any shred of credibility it had with creators and now can be seen for what it is — a company with no interest in treating songwriters fairly.”

ASCAP, currently getting sued by Pandora, noted that AM/FM radio stations get a different rate for a reason.  Here’s a complete statement on the matter from ASCAP president and chairman Paul Williams.  ASCAP is a massive publishing and songwriter collection society.

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“Songwriters and composers are struggling in the digital economy to be paid fairly for their creative work.  Pandora is trying every trick in the book to brazenly and unconscionably underpay and take advantage of the creative labor that produces the core offering of their business – music written by individual songwriters and composers.

“ASCAP has an ethical obligation to serve and protect the hundreds of thousands of small and independent songwriters, composers and music publishers we represent to ensure that they receive fair compensation when their songs are performed on any technology platforms.

“Internet and traditional AM/FM radio services are very different businesses with different formats, using music in very different ways. Pandora’s claims against songwriters and publishers further proves the importance of ASCAP’s mission to protect the human rights of its songwriter and composer members to be treated fairly by businesses that publicly perform their music in this new digital era.”

27 Responses

    • Paul Maloney
      Paul Maloney

      Yes, because we can all be sure that Apple will do its best to enrich every artist and label, great and small. Just wait.

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        “we can all be sure that Apple will do its best to enrich every artist”
        So far, it’s the only company on the planet that has done just that.
        Honestly, where do you think the music industry would be today without iTunes?
        My guess is it would be where music production would be without the invention of the Mac…

        Reply
        • Jeff Robinson
          Jeff Robinson

          So you believe Apple has reported every sale of every song since the inception of iTunes?

          Selling digital files is like selling air.

          I highly doubt every dime has made it back to distributors, then to labels and artists from iTunes. The music industry has a long history of having been built with middlemen acting as the mortar between entities. There’s no way Apple escaped that.

          Reply
        • tune Hunter
          tune Hunter

          Agree you are right. So lets convert Shazam and Soundhound and Gracenote and liric ID (Google is the biggest) guys to mandatory purchase (Apple will negotiate ID with one of them for 2 cents a tune) to absolutelly purchase only ID “you like it – you got it” You will double the industry in 18 month to 34 billion.
          I am almost positive that RIAA can sue them based on sampling laws to stop processing protected property for their gain – sorry no gain they are to stupid for that!
          Most important, once you convert those guys to cash pigs pirates will have no info to steal

          Reply
      • Shane NRG
        Shane NRG

        Well, Digital Music News just released another article talking about how Apple is screwing over indie labels by forcing them to agree on really poor terms while major labels are reaping the benefits. That there already shows that Apple may continue to make harsh decisions in the near future involving artists and labels.

        Reply
    • DuDeNoDude
      DuDeNoDude

      the cream will rise
      if every band that thinks they are entitled to be paid like those with the qualitative fanbases, for their songs, they better pull their head outta their ass.
      because their song gets played on every service, doesn’t automatically mean they should be paid. the songs are only the beginning (calling card), they have to earn the right to be paid, just like they would if they could secure a live paying gig.
      to start their probably better off playing for spare change (the apprenticeship) on the street—-online amounts to about the same or more); until someone takes them by the arm and says, come play in my establishment and i will pay you to play; and the more people who come, the more I will pay you; and the more people eat and drink, the more i will pay you.
      if and when someone buys your downloadable song after hearing it online or where ever, and it starts to build credible sales numbers, and your popularity grows, then it’s time to be paid for your creations.
      every song’s value is not and should not be considered equal
      maybe it starts a on a sliding scale to start…zero and so on.
      more fanbase = more quality
      = more quantity = more value

      Reply
  1. Visitor
    Visitor

    It’s interesting to see the tables turned on Pandora suddenly. They’ve always had a struggle against the RIAA and etc. for trying to bring a new way of streaming music to the world. They have always had to pay ludicrous fees to them, and now that they find a way to lower the price per song they are demonized. GG internet, GG.

    Reply
  2. ggalen
    ggalen

    I have been a performer and songwriter foir a long time. People have paid real money to see me play. Regularly.
    A performance to establish credibility): http://youtu.be/lUZhQEKgWPo

    It has become clear to me that the supply of music has exploded. This is becuase of recording technology and Internet distributiion technology.
    Every artist can share their work.
    There is an OCEAN of “good enough” music now that the mainstream audience finds enjoyable. They don’t think it is crap. They like it and listen to it. Then toss it away and listen to something new…there is an endless supply each week.
    The amount of music available will probably INCREASE every year. New tools, easy music software. People will be sharing their works.
    There is no way the price for songwriters and performers can stay high when the audience has all the music it knows what to do with.
    We are seeing the effect of technology and the elimination of the record labels as gatekeepers: a FLOOD of “good enough” music, every single day.
    …Just syain’ it as I see it.

    — Glenn Galen

    Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      Yes but 99.999% of that music is made by amaeturs (often kids living with their parents) who don’t understand music the way we do. Nobody wants to listen to it or buy it for that matter.

      Reply
      • ggalen
        ggalen

        Visitor,
        As I said in my post, they DO listen to it. That was the main point. it’s “good enough” for mainstrem listeners…they listen to it and grab something new. For free.
        Supply and demand is what is going to erase songwriters/artist income.

        Reply
    • lifer
      lifer

      yes, glenn you are correct. the bottom line: many of these so called “professionals” who complain about “amateurs” are often hacks who benefited from gatekeepers limiting the competition. Take a recording of very talented garage-based grunge/punk rockers or mixtape peddling rappers with nothing but a laptop, hunger and entrepreneurship. Compare them with the millions of dollars wasted on slickly produced, high end studio recordings of mediocre graft-driven middlebrow-ness and most of us will chose the former because the former gets to the heart of the human relationship with music.
      Anyone who says they will stop making music because there is no money in it should do just that. They will not be missed because there will always be someone compelled to use music as a way to commune with fellow humans.
      I’m not saying artists should not be paid. I am saying “get real!” Every honerst artist knows an unknown singer/songwriter/producer/musician who is at least as talented as they are. If you can’t admit that then you are a self-deluded fool. Now you have to really compete. Say “game on” or get out of the kitchen /(metaphor mixing intentional)

      Reply
      • ggalen
        ggalen

        Except that when the audience is perfectly happy with music that is simple and can be created by anyone in a short time or with loops and Garageband…then there is no “compete” based on musical quality.

        There is only luck.

        Reply
    • Anthony
      Anthony

      It’s called disposable music and it makes up almost all of today’s FM radio, except for classic rock and oldies, but most definitely top 40. I think, though, since listeners are constantly looking for the next thing to get excited about, that maybe they aren’t really satisfied with this stuff. And while I agree with Adam, in another post on here, that I, too, love having music on vinyl or CD and be able to play it on a real stereo system, but if digital sales are the big thing now, then that’s where I want to sell my stuff as well. “I want to be selling what they’re buying” at least in terms of format.

      Reply
  3. hippydog
    hippydog

    Quote “ASCAP has an ethical obligation to serve and protect the hundreds of thousands of small and independent songwriters, composers and music publishers we represent to ensure that they receive fair compensation when their songs are performed on any technology platforms.”
    Sounds good until they say..
    Quote “Internet and traditional AM/FM radio services are very different businesses with different formats, using music in very different ways.”
    Really? Is it really that much different?

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      hippydog,
      It’s a really good question, and to be honest, prior to reading the ASCAP statement, I’d never considered that there might be good, defensible reasons for charging different royalties for different radio formats. I’d sided with Westegren on the idea that there should be parity across different formats (though, ‘parity’ was often devilishly blurred into ‘lower’ but that’s another story).
      But, taking Williams’ side for a second, consider that terrestrial radio simulcasts are pretty different than Pandora’s one-to-one structure (as opposed to terrestrials one-to-many structure). And, let’s face it, when a song gets mega-blasted on terrestrial plus its online simulcast, that artist/song is typically shuttled to an entirely different level. Just ask Macklemore, or any artist lucky enough to get a scant spin on terrestrial radio.
      Indeed, that’s always been the defense of terrestrial radio conglomerates against paying recording performance royalties. Seems to make sense in cases like Macklemore, not so sure it makes sense for classic artists that drive more value for stations than they get back.
      Of course, iHeartRadio is more complicated than that, but really interested in hearing what you (and others) think on this matter.

      Reply
      • hippydog
        hippydog

        Quote “prior to reading the ASCAP statement, I’d never considered that there might be good, defensible reasons for charging different royalties for different radio formats. ”
        I would love to hear those reasons.. maybe another article devoted to that? because the statement above never mentioned any..
        Quote “But, taking Williams’ side for a second, consider that terrestrial radio simulcasts are pretty different than Pandora’s one-to-one structure (as opposed to terrestrials one-to-many structure). ”
        still comparable.. i would say the biggest difference is Radio can’t easily say exactly how many listeners they have minute to minute.. should they get a break because they dont know ‘exactly’ what their true ‘listenership’ is? sure.. but a complete free ride? no..
        Lets put it this way.. you and others have mentioned many times that if a business’s ‘Model’ is not working, its going to have issues.. but think about.. Terrestrial Radio’s business model in the USA is based on not paying for the music it makes its money from? is that pretty messed up also?
        Quote “And, let’s face it, when a song gets mega-blasted on terrestrial plus its online simulcast, that artist/song is typically shuttled to an entirely different level.”
        true.. but how much is that being due to its “as above freemium model, AND its closed feedback circuit ?” [until just recently a hit was based primarily on radio plays, and those ‘hits’ were primarily choosen with the help of the labels.]
        If you put both analog (fm) and digital (pandora, iradio, etc) formats on the same level playing field, would that premise still hold true?
        Quote “Seems to make sense in cases like Macklemore,”
        Macklemore had an exponential trending rate BEFORE FM radio bought in.. Radio helped, a lot, but they didnt break him.. Terrestrial radio is still extremely powerful but how much of that dominance is being paid for by the artists?
        The only arguement i can think of why Analog radio should get a bigger deal is; it employs more people, and more LOCAL people.. but a ‘different format’ arguement is pretty weak..

        Reply
      • Casey
        Casey

        Radio executives have been debating whether or not Pandora is “radio” or something entirely different for years. Most are still convinced it is not radio. But most of the differences they bring up have nothing to do with music. The local staff, the community involvement, the news/whether information, and even the physical transmitter. None of them have anything to do with music. Pandora is more customized, but it is still classified as a non-interactive service, same as terrestrial radio web streams. So in reality one could say from a music standpoint, they are more or less the same. People ultimately listen to both for the same reasons.

        Reply
  4. jeff price
    jeff price

    want to do something about it?
    If you control the rights to the composition, contact BMI or ASCAP and notify them that you are withdrawing the right of Public Performance for Pandora
    Pandora then cannot play any recoding of that song.
    Jeff

    Reply
    • Adam
      Adam

      Why more artists are not doing this already is beyond me. Real fans pay for music if they want it. Everyone else should have to struggle just a little bit for it to be free. If its easy, ok well they get it free. But any real artist knows their real fans will buy stuff. Not necessarily digital files. CD’s and Records are NOT dead. I can prove it, there’s lots of data. All this attention to digital has distracted musicians from the fact that people still want a physical item from them. Digital files have no value. That’s why people want them for free. What do you really get? Nothing but mediocre sound and a file that can disappear if your computer crashes. If I like an album, I have to own it on vinyl or CD so I can actually hear it on my real stereo. Sadly musicians are forgetting about their real fans – but those who aren’t are doing just fine. The industry is so quick to push us all to the next format… except this time they didn’t have a new format lined up or properly priced and positioned. This is the fallout. Its comical in some ways. Stop pushing us into digital, I couldn’t care less about it. I use spotify when I’m on the go, but when I really want to hear music its in my apartment, on real speakers, playing from something I can touch and smell. This connection to our senses is paramount for success. Digital removed that almost entirely. All I smell is hot computer fan air and a lot of BS…

      Reply
    • Hmmm...
      Hmmm...

      Sorry Jeff, but that’s not true. After ASCAP got taken down by the feds back in the 30s the right of public performance became compulsory. That means that once the song has been published you can’t prevent a music user from performing it, but you have the right to collect royalties through a PRO like ASCAP. You can thank the broadcasters and BMI for that one.

      Reply
  5. Henry Chatfield
    Henry Chatfield

    “Internet and traditional AM/FM radio services are very different businesses with different formats, using music in very different ways.”
    Could you get any more vague? I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not fair that Pandora pays for performance royalties when terrestrial does not. However, the answer isn’t to lower what Pandora pays, but to increase what terrestrial pays. I really don’t understand why this isn’t a cut and dry issue.
    ASCAP: Please specifically explain what the ‘differences’ are to add some clarity in an otherwise completely ambiguous explanation.

    Reply
  6. Visitor
    Visitor

    While I fully sympathize with artists’ challenges these days, I’m also amazed at all the hating on Pandora over this move. They are a business that exists to make money, not a musicians’ charity. If people are upset about Pandora’s ability to exploit a loophole in the law to pay a lower royalty rate, then its the lawmakers you need to hate on, not Pandora.

    Reply
    • MHo
      MHo

      I completely agree. Painting this as an Us vs Them story does a diservice to songwriters.

      Pandora’s executives are charged with delivering as good a return as possible for their shareholders. By happily and quietly complying with the existing licensing landscape, they would inevitably cede the space to iHeartRadio (who work within a completely different licensing framework) and Apple iRadio (who can utilize an unparalleled amount of leverage within the industry).

      Where is the outrage with Clear Channel and iHeartRadio paying songwriters so much less than Pandora and other pure online radio providers? My guess is that taking on the Clear Channel colossus is too bold a move for DMN, and Pandora is just a much softer target.

      The discussion should be examining the entire space and not singling out Pandora day after day. Yes, they could definitely be doing more to aid the content creators, but then so could every other player in this space. Pandora are hardly the sole offenders and continually painting them as waging a war against musicians/songwriters, etc is grossly oversimplifying matters.

      Reply
  7. Anthony
    Anthony

    This is a pretty sad state of affairs and in many ways reminds me of the world of sports. Pro football, for example, is a multi-billion dollar industry with things like TV and radio rights, merchandising deals, etc. Yet I could never understand how, or why, the players and the owners were constantly fighting. It seems with a pie that big there had to be a way to slice it up to each other’s satisfaction. After all, you can’t have a team without management and you can’t have a team without players. One would think they would work as closely as possible to put the best and most profitable (for both sides) product on the field. But no….the fans have endured lock outs by the owners and strikes by the players. The only time something gets done is when the players get tired of not getting paid and the owners get tired of seeing 70,000 empty seats in their stadiums each Sunday. The public just gets annoyed because they can’t watch football and blames both sides, but for the most part they do take the side of the players. Fans go to the games to see the players, not the owner or GM. Fans buy the jersey that has ‘Romo’ on the back, not Jerry Jones. Music lovers tune into Pandora (or any other outlet) to hear the artists they love, not to hear Tim Westergren or any other CEO.

    The music business, especially in this digital age, is a huge pie and there should be enough to go around so that both sides, artists and broadcasters/labels, are fairly compensated. Broadcasters /labels need the music and artists need the outlets they provide for their music to be widely heard. Unfortunately, artists don’t have the leverage that pro athletes have, in terms of a walkout, but wouldn’t it be interesting if one day people turned on their radios only to hear the following loop, “We’re very sorry, but we have no music to broadcast today. Thank you for patience as we work to resolve this issue.”

    And please, before anyone starts with the ‘But this is art. It should be done for the sake of art.’ Yeah, and pro athletes should play for the love of the game. Blah, blah, blah. It’s called the music BUSINESS for a reason. By the way, the next time you want to go to a concert, ask ‘Why should I have to pay $50.00 for a ticket? Isn’t art free?’

    Reply

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