This is a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign gone miserably wrong for Pandora. And the latest scathing critic of Pandora and its campaigning founder, Tim Westergren, is none other than Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason (ie, the guys in Pink Floyd).
The group just published a sharply critical op-ed in USA Today, one that flatly accuses Pandora of tricking artists into signing Congressional petitions that would cut their royalties by about 85 percent. “Musicians around the country are getting emails from Pandora, even directly from the company’s charismatic founder Tim Westergren,” the piece states. “Asking them to ‘be part of a conversation’ about the music business and sign a simple ‘letter of support’ for Internet radio.”
“Of course, this letter doesn’t say anything about an 85 percent artist pay cut. That would probably turn off most musicians who might consider signing on. All it says about royalties is ‘we are all fervent advocates for the fair treatment of artists.'”
Meanwhile, artists are losing compensation at a dramatic rate. “For almost all working musicians, it’s also a question of economic survival. Nearly 90% of the artists who get a check for digital play receive less than $5,000 a year. They cannot afford the 85% pay cut Pandora asked Congress to impose on the music community.”
But even if you scrutinize the letter carefully, with every bit of fine print examined, there’s actually nothing about this rate cut.
“Fine print is one thing. But a musician could read this ‘letter of support’ a dozen times and hold it up to a funhouse mirror for good measure without realizing she was signing a call to cut her own royalties to pad Pandora’s bottom line.”
Then, there’s the other elephant in the room: why is Pandora spending so much time bitching about music costs, when its core business revolves around… music? “We’ve heard Pandora complain it pays too much in royalties to make a profit. (Of course, we also watched Pandora raise $235 million in its IPO and double its listeners in the last two years.) But a business that exists to deliver music can’t really complain that its biggest cost is music.”