Pink Floyd Blasts Pandora for “Tricking Artists Into Signing Their Own Paycuts…”

  • Save

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.”

“You don’t hear grocery stores complain they have to pay for the food they sell. Netflix pays more for movies than Pandora pays for music, but they aren’t running to Congress for a bailout. Everyone deserves the right to be paid a fair market rate for their work, regardless of what their work entails.”

44 Responses

  1. FarePlay

    The internet is merely a microcosm for our society, where the well being of individuals are sacrificed so that a few can attain super wealth.

    What they’re not taking into account, or perhaps don’t care, is that creativity is not a job that can be outsourced or automated. The arrogance of the internet is such that somehow they believe their distribution service has more value than the goods they deliver.

    The internet without desireable content? Ghost town.

    • Visitor

      meanwhile this has gone viral on reddit…
      My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89, Less Than What I Make From a Single T-Shirt Sale!

      • Visitor


        It’s important to understand that Pandora and Spotify are absolutely worthless to artists.

        • GGG

          No, they are aboslutely not. This thinking is what is keeping our industry from evolving. There are two ways to approach this subject.

          1) Money. Financially Pandora has pretty bad pay and is actively trying to make it worse. Spotify has shitty pay, too, but has potential to be decent, just need to get more people using the product.

          2) The Dirty E-word. I hate using exposure as much as the next guy, but in a day and age where everyone and their mother is in some shitty band or is a stupid DJ, breaking through the clutter is harder than ever. Between many people still enjoying/trusting Pandora’s programming, to Spotify being a fantastic way to listen to stuff you may otherwise not listen to, they have an immense amount of worth to artists.

          The issue is finding out how to maximize both together. And no, the answer is not bitching about album sales. Sorry. I know that completely wipes your brain clean of ideas…

          • FarePlay

            GGG, the reason there is so much contempt for these streaming services from working artists is their predatory stance towards the artists themselves.

            Many people, including myself, have looked at the financial projections for these companies and even with their current pitiful compensation models for content they do not appear to have viable businesses models.

            The ratio of free vs paid subscribers for these sewrvice is pathetic, their audio quality is poor and the cost of having so much music available for free just doesn’t add up. So if you’re asking me to support businesses that have questionable sustainability and guarantee the demise of working class artists; I just can’t go there.

            I’m less enamored with convenience and accessability than the future survival of the arts.

          • GGG

            Here’s the thing; I don’t really disagree with any of this. But as an industry, we tend to have this all or nothing mindset that you are exhibiting here. That’s my problem.

            At this point, I 100% agree Pandora is predatory. Westergren is basically a shyster to the 10th degree at this point, especially after that letter came out. That doesn’t negate the fact that internet radio can be enormously influential. The difference in opinion with me and apparently 90% of commentors on here is I see value in fixing how these entities operate, whereas you all think they should be shut down because there’s “no value.” Tell me what has value besides a time machine to 1998 or wishful thinking 100K people will buy every mediocre artist’s record and I’ll glady call for streaming and internet radio to die.

            Similar with Spotify. I won’t say for certain if streaming is THE sole future or just continues to exist with purchasing, because I have no idea, but it’s not going to go away. So in the meantime, while people still not only don’t buy music but still steal music, why not make cases and band together to try and grow streaming? If it grows, there’s more money to go around again. Because, like I’ve said probably 50 times on here, there has literally been no other idea except the idea that just telling people “hey you kids, you should buy music! don’t be a jerk!” will suddenly make everyone buy shit again.

    • GGG

      I’d rather be a former theif than the coward you are. Can’t even argue basic points…

      • Visitor

        Again, could you please explain what a ‘former thief’ is?

        Does it mean that you paid the money back that you stole from your fellow DigitalMusicNews readers?

        Or does it mean that you said to yourself:

        “OK, I’ve got all the music I need now so I’ll stop stealing. Awesome, I’m not a thief anymore.”

        • GGG

          See reply to your post a bit down. I answer it there, even though I’m pretty sure a 6 year old could have figured out that “Not anymore. Thanks to Spotify!” meant Spotify/streaming=no need to pirate music anymore.

          • Visitor

            So did you pay the money back you stole from your fellow DigitalMusicNews readers?

            Yes or no?

          • GGG

            Nope. I know you’re trying to get me to say I feel justified or don’t think stealing the music was wrong. The fact that I can see the positive to it doesn’t mean I take away the negative, though. I’m well aware of the definition of ste

  2. Henry Chatfield

    Even though this situation with royalty payouts is unfair for Pandora (relative to terrestrial radio and other competitors like I Heart Radio), they have gone about it in arguably the worst way possible — trying to trick artist’s into being in support of getting paid less on performance royalties and buying the SD radio station etc.

    Also couldn’t agree with you more that they shouldn’t be complaining about having to pay for music…seriously? If they are struggling so much maybe they should reassess their business model.

  3. Visitor

    Another amateur band whining because we don’t want to hear their — oh, wait…

  4. menlo

    I hate to break it Mrrs. Waters, Gilmour, and Mason, but they have been tricked every day for decades while their music has been played on terrestrial radio stations around the globe for decades. Why are they not complaining about getting fleeced from these old world music purveyors, when the functional role of Pandora is close to identical? At least they get paid something from Pandora.

    • Visitor

      They may not be seeing royalties from the US, but all of their albums recorded in Europe are subject to multiple revenue streams not found here because the US did not sign on to the Rome convention due to pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters. They continue to fight the Performance Rights Act and were able to get it knocked it down again in 2010. We fix this problem, not be lowering Pandora’s rates, but by bringing everyone up to an equitable level.

      • Visitor

        “We fix this problem, not be lowering Pandora’s rates, but by bringing everyone up to an equitable level.”


    • historybuff

      Pink Floyd got a #1 record without any radio play or payola. Nice try, but this band is the absolute right band to write this letter and tear down the wall.

  5. jingyeow

    I’m pretty sure a majority of what supermarkets sell can only be consumed once. Market forces and digital content which can be copied infinitely are a different beast. Bad example?

    • Weeelllll....

      Not really infinite considering there are a finite number of consumers who will listen for a finite number of hours in their lives. Every piece of music competes with every other piece of music for those moments of an individual’s time. The music definitely has no value if it’s not being heard, but if someone’s listening to it then it has value and the creator(s) should be compensated (unless they voluntarily give it away which is also certainly their right).

  6. Saumon Sauvage

    What business doesn’t pressure its vendors to lower costs?

    Just because you and I are recording performers (forget “artist,” very few get to that level), doesn’t mean we ought get any more special treatment than the seller of snack foods.

    The point is, how do we increase our revenue stream? No one has any good ideas any more because the technologists control a low-cost distribution of an oversupply of recorded music.

    Limiting that supply — which is what the record companies did in the vinyl age because there was a heavy cost involved in delivery — is the best way of maintaining product prices.

    The best solution is — wait for it — vinyl. Impracticable and impossible, most likely. But IMHO, digital music continue to further depress prices and performers will be increasingly unwilling to cooperate with the technologists. Such a movement of performers, if led intelligently, could prove to be quite an assault.

    • Visitor

      “Just because you and I are recording performers (forget “artist,””

      Speak for yourself, thank you.

      • GGG

        There are few ways a person can be more self-serving and douchey than calling themselves an artist…

        • Saumon Sauvage

          Indeed, it’s a conceit: only a handful ever attain the level that deserves the title.

        • Visitor

          “There are few ways a person can be more self-serving and douchey than calling themselves an artist…”

          Calling themselves? I am an artist by trade and education.

          Just like you are a thief.

          And while we’re at it: How much did you steal from me and/or other DigitalMusicNews readers?



          Sure, I saw in this thread — — that you don’t consider yourself a thief anymore.

          But how does that work? Did you pay us back every cent you owe?

          Or do you think you can just steal our property and say:

          “OK, I’ve got all the music I need now so I’ll stop stealing. Awesome, I’m not a thief anymore.”

          It doesn’t work that way, GGG.

          • GGG

            You flatter yourself way too much. I guarantee I have never stolen any of your shitty music. You are an “artist” by pompous egotism, you are a songwriter by trade and a person who knows about music by education. As this post proves even more, as do all your others have over the months talking about your “art.”

            As for how much I pirated? Not even remotely close to those numbers. I bought CDs and refused to DL at all, legally or illegally, well past when the last big retailers here in NYC closed, so probably up until 2010. Not to mention, until mid 2011 I worked for a very large music company that had tons of promo CDs/dls arriving daily. So the window of needing/wanting to pirate was very small. Not to mention a number of those directly lead to me spending a ton more money on the bands. One band, for example, I literally bought two tix to a show after one listen among more money I’ve spent on them since. Another artist I pirated their new-at-the-time album and ended up buying their 3 album back catalogue. And now that I’ve had Spotify, I can’t remember the last time I pirated an album because I don’t have to. If I want to hear something out of curiosity, I can just find it on there, no need to steal it.

            Which is what I mean by not considering myself a theif anymore. Thought that was pretty clearly implied, but I guess I should go slow with you in the future.

          • Visitor

            “I guarantee I have never stolen any of your shitty music.”

            Easy with the guarantees, now.

            And what about all the other DigitalMusicNews readers? How much did you steal from them?

            Bear in mind that a lot of artists come here — including Pink Floyd, it seems. So think twice before you reply.

            “now that I’ve had Spotify, I can’t remember the last time I pirated an album because I don’t have to”

            Oh, now we get it: Before Spotify, you had to steal. Somebody put a gun to your head and forced you. Tragic.

          • GGG

            No, I guarantee it. I have never pirated shitty, watered down Top 40 music. Not worth my time. Do I listen to it now on Spotify sometimes? Sure, out of morbid curiosity to see how people like you are keeping our mainstream music culture a stagnant cesspool of rehashed, souless mediocrity. But anything I hear on Top 40 that I enjoy, I buy, because it’s so few and far between. Never wasted my time downloading it. And you’re welcome for your few cents worth of Spotify royalties, by the way!

            Also, if you think Pink Floyd found Tim’s letter on here, as opposed to getting it for being artists on Pandora…I don’t know what to say.

            Yea, that’s what I mean, you got me…

          • Visitor

            “if you think Pink Floyd found Tim’s letter on here, as opposed to getting it for being artists on Pandora…I don’t know what to say.”

            You would know that Pink Floyd are DigitalMusicNews readers if you read their article in USA TODAY:


            Because they linked to:


            And I never suggested that Pink Floyd found Mr. Westergren’s letter here.

            I suggested that you might want to think twice before you told us how much you stole from your fellow DigitalMusicNews readers as they include artists like Pink Floyd.

          • GGG

            The Pink Floyd team can all rest soundly tonight knowing the six albums of theirs I own on CD were all bought legally for me by mom one Christmas years ago.

  7. GGG

    Anyway, you should get back to work writing the next truly meaningful song about partying, feeling good, and drinking in da club. You know, those real deep songs. And then complain your royalty checks aren’t big enough because of all the institutionalized issues, not that your music is vapid garbage with the shelf life of banana.

  8. Adam C Smith

    AWEsome, coming from heavyweights like these guys. And to take it out in USA Today as well…I think there’s still a lot of folks that have no idea. Of course, some of them may just shrug. But…many will see this and awareness will be raised.

  9. Copy theirs. See how they like

    Let’s have one of Edward Snowden’s colleagues hack & copy Pandora’s back-end, deploy it, but don’t pay them.

    See how they like it.

    They’ll still have their copy of the code and we can pay them $.000000000001 per use.

    • Visitor

      “They’ll still have their copy of the code and we can pay them $.000000000001 per use”

      Could become a lot of money, eventually.

      The problem is that many streaming companies are so used to instant gratification that they may fail to see the long term potential of your new business model.

      Here’s what we need to make them understand:

      This platform is all about the long tail.

      Give it 30-50 years and it’ll definitely maybe become a success.

  10. anon

    Wouldn’t one solution be to eliminate the free tier of these services and then increase the royalty rate paid to artists? Folks may still have to listen to advertisments, but geez, the entire jukebox of recorded music and / or unlimited streaming radio is a pretty good deal for $10 or so per month.

    • GGG

      Wow, an idea that’s not “SHUT DOWN THE INTERNET!” Ten points for you, good anon.

      Interesting how none of you so called “artists” on here have called to cut out the free user ability. Perhaps you enjoy it too much? Little hypocrisy goes a long way.

      • anon

        Thank you, GGG. I appreciate this discourse.

        BTW….I am a musical artist. I just happen to love recorded music, know intimately what it costs to make a record sound great, and I think that copyright holders with successful sound recordings should be paid a fair rate for their works.

        Mmmm…there’s gotta be an amicable solution. We fought long and hard for the rates we had before the Internet.

        I do believe that eliminating the free tier would generate a large pool of income to distribute to song writers, publishers, phonorecord copyright holders, and performers. The trick would be for people to agree to adjust the royalty rates. It won’t work if the tech companies and sharks line their pockets.