My Song Was Played 168 Million Times on Pandora. I Received $4,000…

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from an op-ed by Aloe Blacc this morning in Wired

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By law, we have to let any business use our songs that asks, so long as they agree to pay a rate that, more often than not, was not set in a free market. We don’t have a choice. As such, we have no power to protect the value of the music we create.

The abhorrently low rates songwriters are paid by streaming services—enabled by outdated federal regulations—are yet another indication our work is being devalued in today’s marketplace.
Consider the fact that it takes roughly one million spins on Pandora for a songwriter to earn just $90. Avicii’s release “Wake Me Up!” that I co-wrote and sing, for example, was the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th most played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than 168 million streams in the US.  And yet, that yielded only $12,359 in Pandora domestic royalties— which were then split among three songwriters and our publishers.

In return for co-writing a major hit song, I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.

If that’s what’s now considered a streaming “success story,” is it any wonder that so many songwriters are now struggling to make ends meet?

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248 Responses

    • Anonymous

      What do you think it feels like to work for free and see fat cats like Mr. Westergren get rich from stealing your song?

      • Pandora pays+too+much

        Probably not as bad as you feel going through life stupid, and with a chip on your shoulder.

        Pandora did not steal anything from you or any other artist. Pandora pays what they are obligated to pay to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Radio pays nothing and generates 30x more money than Pandora. Why are you not attacking them?

        • Anonymous

          “Radio pays nothing”

          That may be true in your country but not in the rest of the world.

          “Why are you not attacking them [terrestrial radio]?”

          Oops, you missed my other posts 🙂 — here’s what I said again:

          It should be illegal for radio stations to use copyrighted content without explicit permission!

          Radio was great back in the day, but paid exposure is available everywhere now and radio is just piracy.

          • Pandora pays+too+much

            And stations should be able to charge a label whatever they want to in order for a song to get a spin in L.A., N.Y., S.F., Miami, Dallas, Houston, etc. Be careful for what you wish for.

          • bloodyhell

            Radio actually pays a lot. To have your song paid on a national public station like NPR or BBC yields $25 a track. On commercial radio its even more per play.

          • Warrior

            What is the process? How does an artist get song on the radio? I’m already on Pandora and the other music services but I’d love to make more money by being added to radio.

            please share


          • TR14L

            Either pay to get it on the air, or … well yeah, that’s it 90% of the time

          • Anonymous

            get yourself a publicist. They, in turn, send out music to radio stations.. the stations listen to the music, and see if they want to play it (usually, they don’t). Once a station gets your music, get everyone in the area to call and request to hear it.. In Canada, for instance, each radio station gives reports to the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications blah blah) every few months. That report is a 72 hour report of the songs they played, with artists, writer, and song title. Stations pay $$ according to their reach, and radio audience. The more stations that play your song, the more $$ you can make…

          • Moose

            It’s business. Radio stations do not have the time to sit and listen to “said’ artists music. It’s bought and paid for. Has been for a while.

          • Willo

            Thats ridiculous! I’ll let you clean my car if you give me $50.
            See. Sounds kinda stupid doesn’t it?

          • Pandora pays+too+much

            It still takes radio spins in big cities to create a hit. There are only one or two stations per city per genre playing no more than 15 songs per hour. If your song is not being played during the morning or late afternoon, you can’t have a hit. So, how much do you think a label will pay to occupy those slots? The answer in a free market is: a lot. The answer in our free market is: it’s illegal. If you get rid of compulsory licenses, you should also get rid of payola laws.

          • Rubby

            There’s also underground college radio. That can put a slow burn on a hit song that eventually can move up. We’re talking music that actually sticks here. In that situation, SPotify will kill your paying audience dead before they grow and reward you. I can’t say it’s stupid because supposedly its such great exposure, among a cadre of cheap freeloaders.

          • A. Thomas

            naw…radio shouldn’t be able to charge how they feel for spins. it’s counter productive. And that kills the writer/publisher. per say..The station charged 4 grand and only spun the record 4,000 dollars worth of royalty spins… all the payment would go to the label as a cost against an artist’s royalty. Oh, hell naw. even on a break even it’s still BS. a standard set rate should always be applied.

          • the whatevs 9

            you want written consent for every song played on radio? you would single handedly kill the music industry if you were in charge.

          • jazzdude

            Radio stations pay a licence fee to the PRS/PPL. They submit their playlists to the PRS/PPL. The PRS/PPL distribute the royalties to the publishers and artists.

          • T.A.

            We (radio) do pay to play songs. I have to fill out a report every quarter.

          • Rubby

            I don’t know why people are sending anything to Spotify. It’s clearly a scamming model, and I’ve seen this in other media. You have to say no to these people making a killing off of your work, as a collective.

            College/indie radio still has a lot of listeners, because people still like music being spun for them, but regular radio is NOT user-controllable, therefore, if the listener wants that song, or wants to discover a band they indentify with, they will have to buy the download from a big company or from the artist’s website.

            Spotify may aid promotion greatly, but so what. A great song and work of mouth aids promotion greatly.

            Stop being suckers hoping you’ll do better than the many already taken. BOYCOTT!

          • Robert

            I sold software that a radio station used to sample their broadcasts. The station input a 10 second sample into a database every three minutes. That sample was compared to waveforms on file. The software generated a report each week, and they cut thousands of checks to the appropriate artist or label. Yes: radios pay. And by the way, the software cost them about a quarter of a million dollars, so again: yes, they pay!

        • Patrick

          So you know NOTHING about the music industry ???

          I get payed as much as $7 for one radio play…

          • Vittle Kimberly

            Well actually, a good writer would know the word is PAID….not PAYED

          • Ozymandias

            That is true of course, but only if you’re from don’tknowwhatthefuckimtalkingaboutville. 😉

          • Alyssa

            One radio play reaches a significantly higher number of listeners than one Pandora play that only reaches one listener. In fact, it is not outside the realm of possibility that a few radio plays would reach the same number as all the Pandora listeners. You can not objectively compare the two. If you want to make pay equitable between services, then songwriters should be paid by listeners not by plays.

        • Ed

          Radio is free – meaning they don’t charge people to listen to them. They get money themselves through advertisers. The streaming services CHARGE SUBSCRIBERS monthly. Artists don’t get a cut of their subscribers – they pay artists literally FRACTIONS of a SINGLE CENT per stream. And in the article above, getting 168,000,000 streams and getting paid $4000 equals out to $0.000023. Sound like the songwriters are getting a fair deal? No, they’re not.
          Meanwhile, only one single artist this year has gone platinum in sales – and new statistics are showing that giving people free constant access to all music DOES NOT get them to go out and purchase albums like so many people have been thinking would happen.
          So everyone’s getting all the music they want while the actual people making the music get squat.

          • k

            That’s incorrect. I worked for a music streaming service, and labels and publishers both get a cut of the revenue. It’s pretty industry standard, but in the end, the music streaming service only gets 30% of the gross revenue coming in; the rest of it goes to publishers and the labels. This is on top of the per-stream payments.

          • Tom

            Ed was pointing out that the *SONGWRITER* gets squat (almost nothing)!
            Not the publishers & labels – but he should have been more clear.
            i.e. “the one who creates the music gets squat” – the SONGWRITER creates the music; not the publisher or the label – they just “dress it up a bit;” and get much more than any songwriter ever gets!

        • ACTUAL songwriter

          Pandora pays+too+much… You are an idiot and a terribly uninformed one.

          • youdaman

            yes, he just seems like he’s raising his self esteem by arguing on the interwebs

        • wiseguy

          Thats not true . radio pays PRS to writers and performs as does PPL . So inform from radio play is good for an artist better than streaming. From Cd sales a writer could get mechanical payments via publishing but that going to because of streaming.

        • Pandora-the-aptly-named

          The whole economic model of streaming is a scam and you are obviously working for Pandora. Your attitude translates precisely the sort of contempt that streaming slave masters hold of musicians. I hope you are happy counting your “high net worth” while people with talent are trying to make ends meet. Screw you.

        • Rubby

          Thanks for that argument, defender of ripoff media startups. THese companies are not started by pioneers or radicals, they are started by scammers.

        • John

          Man U need to sneak a peak at ASCAP and BMI….

          Radio pays well.

          Are fucking elected representatives need to fucking enforce copyright laws.

        • Rick

          Radio absolutely pay something. And they pay big time. In 1991 I recorded a 45 (remember them?) just because I wanted to do it. I had a hundred records pressed. A friend brought it to a local radio station and they, and a country station, played it the odd time over a summer. I made over $1,200.00 Sweet! (I think at the time it was 0.10 a pay or something like that.) So don’t say radio stations don’t pay. They do.

      • Stephen K

        How can any of you actually defend pandora??? We are talking about songwriters here, not justin beiber. It is extremely difficult to make it as a songwriter (or any sort of artistic career for that matter), and you are saying Pandora, who currently hit $240 million in third quarter sales is justified? I don’t like to throw this word around, but are you retarded? The whole reason these royalty rates were passed into law was because of record label lobbyists… please do any sort of research before commenting asinine responses.

        • Pandora paystoomuch

          Nice combo. You are misguided, and rude.

          You should be fighting with Pandora, not against Pandora. Pandora is getting artists paid from radio (in the US) for the first time in 50 years, yet you are making it as hard as possible for them. It’s true that most of the royalties Pandora pays go to the owners of the recorded master, but song writers are being paid as well, and at a disproportionately higher rate than radio. Your problem is with how the royalties paid by Pandora are split between the recorded masters and the publishers. That is a fight with the label, not with Pandora. To advocate killing the goose, so that you get more of the goose’s egg than your brother, is fucking RETARDED. The informed thing to do is to go fight with the labels about what the fair split is, and do whatever you can to make sure the goose lays more and bigger eggs.

          • Songwriter

            Actually- did you not comprehend what Stephen K said? He is not talking about “Artists” – are you a complete idiot and not know the difference between an artist and a songwriter? Songwriters compensation on digital streaming is fcking insane. 168 MILLION streams of a hit song will bring Songwriter(S) and their Publisher(s) about $12,000 – so if there are 3 songwriters they each make only $4000 and that may often be cut down to $2000-$3000 if the songwriter has to give 25-50% away to a publisher. Meanwhile the big name artist makes millions on a tour and sponsorship. So really, pull your head out of your dumbass and see things more clearly. Songwriters are getting completely screwed by streaming music services. Pandora and Spotify take 30% of revenues? They should only take 10% and they should be raising their advertising rates so that more money can be paid back to the songwriters and artists, although artists really have never been paid for airplay because they benefit from sales and tours and sponsorships….but sales are obviously are now shrinking because of this free music for all bullshit and not every artist has the benefit of being a superstar capable of doing a headline tour. So get a fcking reality check.

          • Greg Assbutt

            I think you meant “the difference between a songwriter and a performer.” Both the songwriter and the performer are artists, as well as, painters, actors, novelists, etc.

        • LJ

          The fact that you “respect” the R word so much and used it so carefully to render insult is, at best, misguided. The R word is hurtful and insults those with intellectual disabilities that have nothing to do with your argument here. Respectfully, please remove or edit your comment, refrain from using the R word in the future, and become part of the solution.

        • People are dumb

          Stephen K you’re an idiot! In fact – everyone should do research before making comments! Pandora was built on the foundation of music discovery and allowing for ARTISTS (not the Justin’s or Madannas of the world) but the struggling ones in particular to have a voice and be heard! And find their fans! Yall are dumb – EAD

      • TR14L

        Probably about the same way it feels to give a majority of your life for 300 dollars a week.

      • Anonymous

        I once worked in a clothing store for minimum wage. I didn’t like my pay. Whining about it didn’t get me very far with my boss, so I went and got an education and a better job.

        Sometimes, you don’t get to choose your pay. You can however, choose your job. Right now, the marketplace (Pandora and others), like it or not – pay a certain rate. You don’t have to like it. Consider doing something else if you feel you can’t make it in songwriting. Maybe you can hone your craft, become a better songwriter, maybe even perform your own songs, or contribute in some other way to get a bigger slice of the pie.

        If your “art” is important enough to keep you doing the same thing without food on your table, good for you… but I’m not so sure you should be complaining about the situation. Maybe you should change the situation.

    • One man band

      Commercial radio is about advertising. The same songs stay in rotation because that’s what the charts say will keep people listening. It’s a multi billion dollar business. Why would a DJ pull a certified hit song out of rotation and put a no name artist up there which may affect the ratings and therefore affect the money? They have people to answer to and that could get them FIRED!!! It takes a lot of work, a strong following and numbers to prove it for aspiring artist trying to get spins… advertisement and money are the 2 key words.

    • Geeman

      Maybe you should first look how AVICII is based back home and what he gets for one gig to start collecting Money for you poor guys. New Media is shurly a Multi Million Business which your Generation of Music People does get more Attention in short time around the world than any Music Generation before. Yes, you have to earn your Money more or less on live gigs but you have much more gigs offered through that new media spread all over the world as others did not have before.

      I was a male dancer for nearly 29 years and I did Dance in Music Videos and as Background on tours. I never got one penny from the success of those Videos or for any sold Videotapes from concerts regardless of the Input I gave to that. I had just to live from the one time payment for the gigs.

      If there would be no Streaming you would not even earn 1 Dollar as People do not listen to your Music because its neccessary but they are using those Streaming Services on comfort. Why not ! But your Advertising effect what makes your payment for live gigs and additional bookings all over the world more worthable is pushed by that Streaming. Do you give back for this more or less Streaming Advertising any penny towards those Streaming services ???

      At the end one more Thing. Artists are for me People creating important and culture growing Impulses towards the Society but not People which are singing “HAPPY” – recorded within a half day in the Studio. This is just acting or performing but not artistic ! So do not take yourself on a higher step as you are. Be grounded and HAPPY to have the opportunities you have today as a PERFORMER !

      This from a Person which did almost 35 years on stage and by the way a youth Dance friend of ROBERT PILATUS of MILLI VANILLI . Also a nice Story about Money , Greed and Producers Egomania.

      Geeman !

      • Nik Weinstein

        Hey, I liked your comment,

        but I just wanted to point out (as I assume you’re not a native English writer) that it’s a bit distracting for a native English reader to sort through a bunch of capitalized words mid-sentence. Cheers!

    • RandomPerson

      Streaming services pay the recording label, who pays next to nothing to artists. He should be going after his label, not complaining on the internet. Streaming services will hopefully, eventually replace recording labels entirely and then artists will make 100% of the money, not 0%. And they also can’t account for how many times the track may have been purchased due to having heard it on a streaming service, that is impossible to know for sure. So him saying he “only” got $4000 is most likely grossly inaccurate. Furthermore, again, however many times the song was bought on an online service, or the CD was purchased, the label takes a nice fat chunk out of that and he gets alot less than if there was no label and every time someone bought the song online, he got 100% of the money.

    • Mac Owner

      Streaming engines have invested a lot of money in being able to stream to millions and millions of people from a single point, and they want to make the best deal for the music they stream, obviously. So it looks like they pay a low royalty for each play because they reach so many people. You don’t like the rate — so maybe a better deal needs to be worked out with streamers. That’s your industry, you can work to change it if it’s unfair.

      Or, I guess artists like you have the option of not making a recording and not publishing your song or putting it out for streaming — then you would make no money at all because the song wouldn’t be popular, but at least you wouldn’t be getting ripped off.

    • Johnny G

      Adolf , whats the sleezy trick you used to bypass this websites’ system’s humanity verification?
      You obviously relate very well to synthetic and artificial binary tables … you must therefore just some tiny little bit!

    • Max

      You’re an idiot and clearly have no idea what “co-writer” even means in the music industry. If John Lennon and Paul McCartney write a song together, they are co-writers. Almost every song you’ve listened to in the last 50 years has been co-written.

  1. Mike

    another crap post by paul.

    who cares what a co-writer earns?

    f… him!

      • Anonymous

        Nina, how does that $4,000 compare to revenue from 168 million people hearing the song on terrestrial radio?

        • Anonymous

          You’re so right — thank you for bringing it up!

          It should be illegal for radio stations to use copyrighted content without explicit permission!

          Radio was great back in the day, but paid exposure is available everywhere now and radio is just piracy.

      • Dumbasses

        You guys need to fking EDUCATE YOURSELF and LEARN about how the distribution is supposed to work in music industry. “Co-Writers should earn $0.” FOR GOD’S SAKE, DO YOU even KNOW what the “CO-WRITING” is all about? Let’s say artist A wrote his(or her) song with another composer B. So people will remember it as A’s song, but under the copyright law, the copyright goes under two people(A and B) 50:50. “Co-Writing” means not just helping a certain artist to write a song a little bit, it is clearly meaning that the song was written by TWO PEOPLE. Do you think playing a song 168 Million and getting ONLY $4000 are insane? Well- then you gotta FCKING EDUCATE yourself. Nowadays, music stream players like Pandora and Amazon music pay so little for the artists. Spotify pays even more. Have you ever thought about this in the perspectives of the artists? I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift, but let me quote her phrase that she said on her interview a few days a go. “Arts are rare and people need to feel the appreciation. If it’s free, who’s going to create any arts?” I totally agree with this. Let’s say your favorite artists like Bruno Mars, Usher, and John Legend all published their albums and they end up getting paid like nickles and dimes. And let’s say they were just debuting with those albums. Do you think they’re able to continue? Under the copyright law, it’s currently fking 9.1 cent per CD. So most of the artists nowadays don’t earn any shit from albums. What do they do? They beat their asses off doing the promotion, live performance, and advertising. People complain about the ads on YouTube, but HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT WHY ALL THE MUSIC ARTISTS ARE DOING THE ADS ON YOUTUBE NOWADAYS? You must be kidding me. Reading all the comments here just smashed my head – dealing with IDIOCITY.

        • Gerry

          Artists create art because they are artists, they have something inside that needs to come out which is then what we call art in the form of self expression. Art is not about getting an award or getting paid. It’s about human experience, truth, development, change, past, present, and future.

          As an artist/human, you get to choose who you hitch your wagon to. I have compassion for artists/humans being lied to or tricked, but if you willingly accept assistance with national/international distribution, concerts, travel, and airplay of your music, you can expect to pay for these services. You always have the choice to work out your deal to your liking. If you find a deal will leave you dissatisfied, do not take it, simple, right? The music industry is just that, industry, or business, there are many moving parts that without, most music careers wouldn’t exist. If you don’t like that certain people make all the money, again, do not allow them to have your music, do not do business with them, and maybe they will offer more for your art or you will find a partnership that places a higher value on your efforts. If you value your art enough to not sell it, maybe it will be worth more.

          It takes very little to survive in our world, food, shelter ,water…not, fame, mansion, car. Most intermediate level performers and artists that spend their days lamenting music piracy and online digital sales need to wake up and acknowledge we live in a global mix tape sharing community. A digital hit in our current society does not really stand for much. When so called hits are being pumped out by the likes of such humanitarians as Justin Beiber, Katy Perry, and other similar artists, it has to make you think about what a hit really is.

          You create art to create and music is written to be heard, you should be happy if the general world at large has heard your tune and maybe even enjoy listening to it. You are not owed any form of financial compensation unless you write it into your deal. If it’s in your deal that the song you wrote will be playable on Spotify or Pandora, acknowledge that you signed up for this in advance. You have the choice not to do that kind of business. Only let your songs be printed to vinyl, build no digital into your deal. There are no guarantees in a life of art, it is not a reliable career oriented track, it is volatile and at no point can you sit back and say, “I’ve arrived.” The minute you think that, it’s likely the beginning of the end of your career. You have to want it, to fight for it, to keep trying, forever. Love of process first, money second. The alternative is, you quit, give up, or spend your days bitching about getting ripped off, you can always write about that I suppose. Be the world you want to live in, shut up, create, and let everything else happen as it will.

          • Artist supporter

            We live in the information -content- art driven world. Your description of
            The “Artist” life is truly archaic, naive, misinformed, and altruistic to the point of nauseatingly
            Pathetic. Yes, artist create from a pure place of creation — but then so do others in other endeavors who are motivated by passion, drive and humanity! BUT they all get PAID.
            Be you steve jobs, facebook, or a new app/code….all may be created from the
            Same place, and actually launched without compensation — but they ALL GET PAID.
            But not he lowly “pure” musician/songwriter!!! GTF out here! The poor artist trope is too tired.

          • Chris

            What is the value of music to you? What is the value of having your plumbing fixed when you have no water, Your restaurant tab when you don’t have to prepare the meal? What you may pay for a private education? This has nothing to do with classifying something as art. I know a guy that can make a motorcycle sound so good I would call him an artist. What this really has to do with is value.

            Think of your life with no music. Seriously, day in, day out, weeks, months… years… nothing but the sounds you create with the tools you and others around you are capable of.

            Music has real value in our lives, it’s undeniable.
            If you don’t believe musicians should make at least as much for their music as any other profession which requires years of tireless practice, dedication, hardship and sacrifice (think about the time it takes to get a masters or doctorate then add several years to that), then music is of no value to you and I challenge you to give it up. Turn it off for as long as you can. See how you feel.

          • Allister

            Wow, the first truly sensible post in this entire thread of garbage thinking. Thank you, Chris, for sharing.

            Everybody who thinks music should be free, should get what they pay for – nothing. If you can’t equate the happiness you get, from hearing your favourite song, with the small coins in your currency, then you don’t deserve to enjoy the music being created by hard-working songwriters and artists. Yes, there are plenty of examples of crappy music being pushed on the market, that many will think are worthless. There are just as many, or more, examples of songs that have changed your life. Stop cringing at the thought of your free ride being taken away – stand up and be a good human.

          • I Hate

            First of all. The idea that entertainment is an equal service is pitiable. Value is based on supply and in the modern society where very few can take care of the necessities for the rest of the world means that entertainment has become bloated and in fact there are people giving away music comedy and almost all other entertainment based services for free. Furthermore we live in an age where if something is given out for free it will be there for seemingly forever. For instance a famous musician named voltaire has given all his music away for free along with instructions on how to produce it yourself. In return all he asks for is donations if you enjoyed it. This means the technical price for his songs are 0 and is the bar for free music. If you can’t produce better music then your music is worth nothing. I could live in a world without payed for music because there is almost more free music than there is payed for music. If someone really wants money they must produce art that is truly grand or give up. But wait you might be thinking that isn’t fair, well to all those who have newly arrived in this reality life isn’t fair. Murder, death, rape, disease, and countless other atrocious crimes are common place. Even further they are ignored by pompous disinterested self involved people that have to live off of dollar fruits and a 1 room apartment because they aren’t good enough at the things they are passionate about to make money and don’t have a good enough education to hold on to what they own.

          • SupportGoodMusic

            I think that we live in a world where someone can make a living off of doing something they love and are good at. Artists can easily walk off the job just like workers at mcDonalds can. If you don’t value their music enough to buy it, then fine. You just said what they do for a living has no value to you or your life. So they can quit and find a regular paying job. I bet if all artists you listen to said they would never make music again you would panic and beg them to come back again. But why? Why don’t you just listen to free music from Voltaire. He’ll appreciate it even though he’s dead..

          • Larry

            Should a plumber get paid a royalty every time you use your toilet?

            As a plumber, I say yes. Yes please!

          • Frank B


            What you say might make sense in a market where an artist or songwriter is free to negotiate their own deal. That’s just not the case. What do you do for a living. Imagine if tomorrow, a judge in NY who was appointed FOR LIFE, decided that you get paid a fraction of what you have earned in the past for your labor, and you will do this for anyone who requests it. You don’t get to negotiate your pay, and you don’t get to decide who you work for. You have one choice, work under those rules or find a new profession. That is what songwriters are confronted with in today’s market. So don’t go saying they should just negotiate better deals that make more sense for them. Your comments about making art because you are moved by some inner voice will not put bread on the table or pay the rent. You consume music, so I assume that because you consume it, it has value to you. You think that the songwriter should create this for free, for your benefit because their inner voice tells them to be creative? Do you have any idea what it COSTS to create the music that an artist or songwriters heart compelled them to create, that you feel you should be able to consume for free or next to nothing. You sir, (or mam) are on music welfare and you should be embarrassed.

          • songwriter's wife

            Gerry, the problem with your idea is that, sure, artists create because they have something to say, to contribute, but it takes time and effort to write a great song, get it demoed, etc, and most people have to spend their time doing work they are paid for – including professional songwriters. It’s not something you just do in your spare time and do that well. Maybe it sounds easy to folks who don’t write songs or create art, but the best songwriters I know work at it, every day, and could not do so if they were not compensated, financially. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of these people, “professional songwriters,” the ones who have created the standards we’ve all enjoyed for the past 50-75 years. If you can appreciate the beauty of songs written in the past, the great melodies and lyrics, compared to what passes for good on today’s radio, you might realize we are already seeing the effects of not paying people to specialize as a songwriter – the ones who are the best at it – and are settling for songs written by the artists, who may be great singers and performers but may or may not be great songwriters. When we moved to Nashville in the 1970’s, there were amazing songs written by songwriters, full-time professional ones, like Bob McDill, and professional singers to record and perform these songs. Lots of incredible music came this way – “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” by Crystal Gayle, most of Don Williams’ music, etc. Now few people can exist as songwriters, only, because of the meager royalties they can earn, they can’t live on making a few hundred or even thousand dollars once or twice or three times a year, which is about how many cuts even a full-time, successful songwriter might get. Compare this to a real estate agent who makes thousands of dollars on each house sold and might sell 25-50 a year.

            If you don’t hear great songs on the radio anymore, this is a main reason why.

          • I Hate

            The problem with your statement is that if you look even further back you would realise that the best older songs are more about melody than words. In fact out of all songs in the great history of this world the ones that have done by far the best have few if any words at all. beethoven’s moonlight sonata, Giuseppe Tartini devil’s trill sonata, Frédéric Chopan’s Fantasie impromptu, and Edvard Grieg’s Hall of The Mountain King. All of these songs are from arguably ancient history and are the most famous songs of their era. These are also for the most part the songs an average person thinks of when they think classical music, but none of them have a single line of lyrics and they were all composed and produced by the musician them self. Another interesting note is almost all of these legendary musicians could easily be called poor to the point in which they could barely support them self and the music they produced was largely free to all who could hear it. Furthermore i can point out top hits from recent history that share this distinction. Because at the end of the day every musician in the world is competing against every musician of the past and music is much more about the rythem the performer puts into it and the sound the voice produces itself than the words in it and you would have to be a legendary song writer to compare to the songs of the past which are free. Life is not fair and in art if you aren’t legendary in this market you don’t have a value. You can say its wrong, but that is the truth and as long as old music is free and out of copy write new musicians and their writers must compete against them. I can live my entire life not paying a dime for music because there is music that is absolutely free and i couldn’t pay for it if i wanted to that is the culmination of a person’s entire life and soul and very few things can compare to that.

          • Marcus

            Agreed on all counts. If its about the money, you’re doing it wrong.

          • right

            vanity is just being happy that someone is listening to your music… because they have done nothing, you are in fact imposing your stuff on them. when they participate — i.e. choose to see that it has value, and pay for it — there is an exchange of energy. one is masturbation; the other is sex.

          • Hank Thomas

            So, if you like your job, you should do it for free and let other people make money from your creativity?
            Hmm, Not a great business model. And yes, while more money is made by the artists that tour, they would not have any material to tour with if the writers didn’t write it in the first place. Pandora and Spotify pay the performers, but $4,000 for 168 million of ANYTHING just ain’t right.

        • misa

          Just because two people wrote it, doesnt mean its a 50:50 split. Solange completely wrote “why dont you love me” (friends with the bama boys who produces it, and witnessed solange sit isolated and write it) for beyonce but somehow two other people and beyonce’s name in the credits.

          Let say you wrote a song and beyonce wants it, off rip, youve given up at least 30% to publishing, becaus under beyonce the song will see at least 1 million sales and 2 tours, which you will still make just as much royalities, or more, if you take less than 70% of the rights, even if you are the sole writer, had someone like Jasmine V or Justine Sky got the song. Then beyonce is gonna get at least 40% because….shes Beyonce. She may change a word or two, or switch up the melody, but if Tinashe did the same, she still wouldnt get a credit. So it goes back to how much her brand could provide for the song which could be endorsement deals, commercials, movies etc. So even if you completely wrote the song, for a major artist your starting out at around just 30%. Now if you co-wrote it, even less. “Single Ladies” lists 7 writers including Beyonce, yet 75% of the song is “all the single ladies, all the single ladies” repeated….do you really think it took 7 people to write that song??

          Then, Pandora firstly does not have as big as a streaming payout as Vevo/Youtube, Yahoo and most other streaming sites because it is a radio, not a select and steam. Someones pandora could just be streaming with no one listening because someone forgot it, and you also cant select a specific song to listen to. Most writers are paid either hourly during the session (if the song is made for a certain artist while in the studio) or a single fee for the rights (if its already written and pitched). Then you get paid quarterly (every 4 months) for when artists perform live (given that you track all performances and report them yourself to your PRO like BMI, but a major artist’s team does it and you are appropriately listed the right percentage as a composer), radio spins, VEVO plays, endorsement deals and other licensing opportunities. Pandora is like advertisement, hardly an outlet where an artist, label or even a writer should be complaining about the pay not being adequate. Most up and coming artist are wanting to get approved for pandora so hopefully when someone clicks the chris brown station, their song will come up and they can gain a new fan. Kid ink’s rise to fame all came from Pandora….really pandora should be charging the artists like an advertising outlet, but ANYONE can submit their music to be on pandora.

          People like beyonce, taylor swift, rihanna, drake etc may not make their main amounts from pandora compared to a lesser known artist, but most of their money doesnt even come from the music, it comes from their brand. Themselves as a brand is what sells out shows, gets them endorsement deals and sell merchandise. Thats why touring is important for an artist. Writers are just pawns, but $4,000 in a quarter is still $1,000/month from just pandora, not even radio spins, licensing the song on a commercial, money from touring (which for writers theres a guarantee for every leg, because they are liscensing the songs for the shows) and of course VEVO, which is roughly $3 for every 1,000 views online and $1 for every 1,000 views mobile, so imagine someone like miley cyrus, one direction or justin bieber whos fans try to break the most views in 24hrs record when a video debutsx so theyre getting like 22million+ views in one day. But regardless of all those outlets cry baby didnt mention, its still more than what i make from my job a month (I do hair and graphic design on the side too) and I still manage to buy groceries, get my nails done, go out from time to time, shop and pay all my bills.

        • Tom

          The problem with your comment is that NOT ALL SONGWRITERS “PREFORM!” Get it? Good.
          So, for someone like Tim Nichols, he’s not a performer. He JUST writes. So, believe it or not, there are songwriters who simply do not perform. His songs are performed by others – Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, etc.
          So, he makes MUCH LESS than somebody who writes and performs their own songs. Just clarifying.

        • Tom

          The problem with your comment is that NOT ALL SONGWRITERS “PREFORM”! Get it? Good.
          So, for someone like Tim Nichols, he’s not a performer. He JUST writes. So, believe it or not, there are songwriters who simply do not perform. His songs are performed by others – Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, etc.
          So, he makes MUCH LESS than somebody who writes and performs their own songs. Just clarifying.

    • Marla

      You’re a dumb cunt! So which writer shouldn’t get paid when there’s two writers? Which is the ‘more importantly one’. Thick twat!

  2. Anonymous

    How does that $4,000 compare to revenue from 168 million people hearing the song on terrestrial radio?

    • Anonymous

      Again, you’re right:

      It should be illegal for radio stations to use copyrighted content without explicit permission from the owner!

    • Pandora pays too much

      Pandora paid $218,400 to SoundExchange for playing the song to 168,000,000 total listeners once. The artists registered with SoundExchange got about $100,000 of that directly. That’s indisputable.

      Terrestrial radio played the song to at least 168 million people and paid zero to Avicii or his label. That’s indisputable. It is impossible to know what the song writers/publishers received from radio for 168 million total listeners hearing the song once, but it is a fraction of the $12k Pandora paid.

      Pandora works for musicians, even ones that can’t do math.

      • Anonymous

        “Pandora works for musicians”

        🙂 Don’t be silly — musicians hate Pandora even more than they hate Spotify!

        Here’s why:

        You can demand that your music isn’t played on Spotify — Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Adele, Coldplay, Black Keys, Beatles, AC/DC and lots of other acts have done so with great success.

        But Pandora is exactly like the Pirate Bay: You can’t prevent them from making money from your songs without your permission.

        • Pandora pays too much

          You are ridiculous. Your GuitarCenter rewards card does not make you a musician, and your comments certainly do NOT reflect the views of professional musicians.

          Professionals love Pandora because they make money from radio for the first time ever (in the U.S.). And they make that money directly, whether they are recouped or not. It’s already hundreds of millions of dollars and it will become billions over the next several years.

          As for removing your music, let’s acknowledge that you don’t have that problem, your music is not on Spotify, Pandora or radio. It’s on cassette tapes in your mom’s basement safe and sound.

          U.S. law does not give anybody the right to remove music from radio, which includes Spotify’s free version and Pandora. If you release in the U.S. via any format, your music can be played on radio. Period.

          Pandora is not the same as Pirate Bay. Pandora is licensed, and 100% legal, and very beneficial to the music industry (e.g. people who make a living from music) . Your statements otherwise are slanderous, and you should stop making them.

          • Stephen K

            Pandora Pays Too Much is either a troll or works for the company. I don’t have a degree in special education, so I’m not sure the best way to debate children with mental health needs

          • Central Scrutinizer

            That’s funny and sad at the same time

            This entire thread is filled with trolls who do not understand the difference between performance artists and songwriters let alone how each gets paid

          • bloodyhell

            Radio DOES pay artists a lot of money. In fact, on a public national like NPR, CBC or BBC artists receive $25 per play. On commercial radio, its even more. Its called publishing, and the money is collected through agencies like ASCAP or SOCAN in canada.

          • David Baerwald

            Pandora Pays Too Much. What planet are you living on? Everything you’re saying is untrue, from radio royalties on down. I’ve been working as a songwriter/composer since 1986. I own a publishing company. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • Adomus

            “Your Guitar Center rewards card doesn’t make you a musician” wins quote of the day!! Haha

          • A Musician


            You should be ashamed of yourself. You have your lines down like a debt collector.
            I’m a songwriter, and my songs had around 600k streams last quarter. Pandora and Spotify paid me $14.
            I live in Nashville, and many of my friends are professional or semi-professional songwriters and trust me, they all HATE Pandora, Spotify, etc. And we pretty much hate selfish, self righteous, entitled, douchebags like you who enjoy defending people who steal from us.

  3. jw

    Let’s put this in perspective. People didn’t click on his song & choose to listen to it. It came on a radio station, even if it was the Avicii station.

    Let’s say a major station broadcasts to 300,000 people at any given time. That’s 560 plays. Let’s say that’s 19 plays in each of 30 major markets. What’s your payout there? Certainly not $12,359. What’s a songwriter payout for a major market… like 7 or 10 cents per play or something? 560 x $.1 = $56. So his cut of that is what… less than $15, right?

    If I’m very far off, someone with more experience in this type of thing should correct me. But I’m quite confident that his payout for that sort of exposure on terrestrial radio would net a double digit return.

    He’s right, $4,000 isn’t a ton, but it’s also nothing to sneeze at. And as Pandora continues to grow, those payouts will grow. But I think he’s got an inflated sense of what 168m radio streams actually means, & what kind of ad revenue that actually generates, & how that actually compares to terrestrial radio payouts.

    Then again, he’s an artist, not a business person. His manager should be explaining these things to him.

    • GGG

      This is a perfect example of why this industry is in such a shithole. Why can’t people just put out all the facts and make full arguments instead of just going all in on one side? I don’t mean to defend Pandora because I’m not a big fan of them, and I’m not even saying $4K is all he should get, but he also left out the part where Pandora is paying Aloe Blacc the songwriter AND Aloe Blacc the performer. All he could have done was put some numbers out there for terrestrial radio play, stating the fact he’s missing out on a royalty they don’t have to pay, and now we’ve got a discussion. Show some context. Show some comparison, then make an argument about WHY that rate is low, and how much he thinks he should be paid.

      Instead it’s just more click bait, from him, from DMN, from all over the place. It’s a joke.

      • jw

        What’s interesting is that, not only do people go all in on one side or the other, they don’t even put any thought into it. You deserve more than $4,000 for these plays? Alright, fine… I’m perfectly willing to entertain that. Why do you deserve more than $4,000 for these plays? Because you just feel like you do? Welcome to the club, we all feel like we deserve more! Personally, I feel like I should have a Lamborghini in my driveway. But there are real factors that go into this, because Pandora’s directive is not to just print money for artists. Because that’s illegal. The government won’t allow you to do that.

        Just once I’d love to hear one of these songwriters actually make a sound case for their want for more money. For all I know, someone might totally change my mind on the issue. But it’s going to take more than “I deserve it” or “I think I deserve it” or “I feel like I deserve it.” This isn’t something that should just be taken for granted.

        • Chris

          I would like to hear this from another angle.

          People should be able to make a living writing songs. What system would enable that? How much would streaming services, radio, albums, tours, etc., have to bring in to make that possible?

          • Tom

            $0.00. They don’t have to bring in ANYTHING, *IF* (big IF), if the model and mode of payment and laws are changed. Example – we could gauge it based on size of Pandora, size of Spotify, etc., compared to the overall market; BUT, we need to add at least more equitability for the ‘songwriter’ in the case of “Famous Singers is Making Millions on MY song.” Example: Tim Nichols writes “Live Like you were Dying” – but makes paltry $$, whereas Tim McGraw makes MANY MILLIONS $$ because he ‘performs’ the song – well, without the songwriter, he would not have had that song, on which to make millions! So, the law should change to allow BIGGER $ to the songwriter, whenever “Performer” performs the songwriter’s song.

            Now, to Pandora/spotify – the overall market could be gauged, based on overall market size (# streams, amount of revenue each service receives; etc), along with # of airplays; Now, if the law could be made so that they pay “some percentage” based on the above factors, then songwriter payments will scale nicely as those services continue to grow. You could even use a terrestrial radio equivalency gauge; and, at least get a scientific estimation of approximately how much the revenue equivalent should be. Thoughts?

      • William J earley

        Good point. We need to compare and show context on this subject to help us form a constructive opinion. Hear is a classic example of forming conclusions based on bad comparisons from out of scale maps. One of the TV networks will always show a map of all the backed up airplane traffic in the sky caused by some weather event. On the map, we see a cluster f-ck of planes over some region of the country. It looks REAL bad. Well no, it really isn’t bad at all. The scale of the map is all wrong. One plane takes up enough space to block out the size of a whole county! Four planes take out the skies of northern New Jersey…and so on and so on with all the planes jumbled all up. The scale of the TV map should be the size of several city blocks! What we really have is an orderly, multi level layers of airplanes in the sky in a holding patterns and re-routing to different airports…NOT some chaotic jumble of bad graphics from some lazy TV news network, trying to mold our opinion into panic about some weather event. Context is everything.

    • Versus

      He’s ill, actually.

      But what does this statement prove?

      Avicii would not be doing so well if he were dependent only on streaming Pandora for his income.

      • jw

        Well thankfully Avicii isn’t dependent only on Pandora streams for his income. lol.

        I mean… that’s not even possible. “We got millions of Pandora streams, but we just couldn’t get any other traction at all. No radio, no sales, no touring, no merch, no syncs, no nothing.” That’s like saying someone gets a few hundred major market radio plays, & nothing else happens, & so just radio by itself is responsible for setting this guy up for life. How does that make any sense?

        No one ought to be able to survive solely on Pandora streams. Lol. That kind of value is just not being created. Pandora’s reach isn’t really that far, & it’s too spread out over all sorts of stations. You are placing inordinate pressure on Pandora to prop up artists, seemingly divorced from the realities of the market.

        What’s sad is that yours is a very typical argument in this conversation about Pandora.

  4. Name2

    Dearest Aloe:

    If 168 million people paid .99 every time they demand-spun your song, and you got $4k, then yes, you were robbed. Is that in fact what happened??

    • Paul Dorin the 3rd

      No, it’s what should have happened. Why buy the cow ……

  5. David

    OK, let’s do some more math.

    Commenters seem to be overlooking the fact that this is an issue specifically over songwriter/publisher royalties. The problem is that the proportion of all royalty payouts going to songwriters/publishers from internet radio (such as Pandora) is ridiculously low. For comparison, the writer/publisher mechanical royalties on a record or download release are approximately 10% of the retail price. The record label and recording artist will not get all of the remainder, but let’s say they get up to 50%, which means the ratio is approximately 1:5, if not better. A ratio of 1:5 hardly seems over-generous, and anything up to 1:1 would not be obviously unreasonable.

    So what about internet radio? Pandora pays out roughly a tenth of a cent per listener/play in total royalties. On total plays of 168 million, that implies a total royalty payout of around $168,000. Of this, according to the Wired post, the *total* writer/publisher royalty payment was just over $12,000, or just over 7% of the total royalties. Does anyone argue that this is a fair share?

    • GGG

      No, but this is also why these op-eds by artists are usually meaningless. No matter how much we may all hate Pandora, there’s a massive difference between $168K and $12K, obviously. And these articles are always written like Pandora is cutting checks directly to whatever artist. There’s a lot of middlemen in that equation, from SE to the labels, that need to be examined and potentially held accountable.

      Again, this is not defending Pandora, it’s just people leaving out crucial information. And I think it’s done both by people who really don’t know how it works, to people purposefully leaving out information to prove a point. Which is just harmful to the overall cause.

    • jw

      The reason for the payout disparity is that the songwriter isn’t fronting any money for the production or the marketing of the song.

      Aloe Blacc, as a songwriter & guest performer, gets paid from day 1. Avicii starts out in the whole tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      If you want equal payout, you have to take equal risk. Oftentimes artists never recoup & don’t make a dime. Many times labels don’t break even. This is not something a songwriter has to contend with, thus the disparity between the payouts. I’m not saying the split, as it exists, is perfect, but certainly a disparity is justified.

      Also, I looooove that Aloe Blacc’s name isn’t mentioned anywhere in the article. Just an unattributed quote. lmao.

      • jw

        Consider this… a songwriter writes how many songs? And how often are they hits? And yet… each time a label is paying for the production & marketing of the song. If a songwriter writes a dud & a label decides to cut the track, the songwriter gets paid from day 1 & the label might go deep in the hole.

        The labels, therefore, make up for bad investments when there is a hit song. But then the songwriter comes running & says, “Pay me, bitch!” BUT if these payouts are calculated just based on a smash hit song, all of the sudden the label isn’t in a position to invest in more recordings. What might make sense as a payout for a hit song, outside of the greater context, no longer makes sense when you consider the dozens of duds that the songwriter has put out & the label invested in without seeing a return.

        As a songwriter, you only have a leg to stand on if you only write hits, thereby eliminating the risk on the part of the label/artist.

        Context, people. Context.

        • jw

          That is all to say that… if the payout ratio is 1:5, you’re kind of building in a 20% success ratio for the songwriter. So the label invests in 5 of the songwriter’s songs, 1 is a hit & 4 are duds, both parties come out 1:1.

          Is 20% the right ratio? I don’t know, but it’s not outrageous, the way you’re trying to make it sound. Of course this is offset one way or the other by recording & marketing budgets & what not, there are a lot of variables at play that we can look at to really see what’s fair. But why aren’t we looking at the variables? Why can’t we have that conversation about what really, objectively determines fairness here? Why is it always just songwriters shouting “more, more, more, more!”?

          • David

            You seem to be missing my main point, which is that the payout to songwriters on internet radio, as a proportion of total royalties, is much lower than on records (CDs, downloads, or whatever). This can hardly be explained or justified by the costs of making records! As to the ‘fair’ share of payments, I agree that a full consideration would need to take account of the costs and risks incurred by the various parties. But, intuitively, it is much easier to make a successful record from a good song than to come up with a good song in the first place, and the rewards should reflect this.

          • jw

            I’m sensitive to that, which is why I used the sales ratio rather than the streaming radio payout ratio.

            The thing is, if the ratio is 1:10 or 1:5 or whatever, this guy is still going to be complaining, “I only got paid $8,000!” or “I only got paid $12,000!” The reason he doesn’t feel like he has to explain why he’s outraged is because his expectations are so far beyond what’s reasonable… he’s probably expecting to buy a house off of what is tantamount to a few hundred major market radio spins. Or at least a nice car.

            Now, there may be specific reasons that internet radio payouts are particularly skewed towards the labels, outside of the fact that the labels own the sound recording & ultimately control the distribution, & are out to wring every penny out of everyone they do business with (including songwriters). I don’t know, I don’t function in that world. But I think this conversation is a good start in unearthing those things. I would love for DMN to track down someone qualified to illuminate without bias exactly what forces are at work here.

            I will say, however, that there’s nothing intuitive when it comes to who deserves what in regards to a hit song, & it varies from song to song. One could argue that, if the song were really THAT important, mainstream music would be a lot better than it is, & music wouldn’t just be background noise for most people. It would be very easy to argue that sex appeal & marketing have just as if not more to do with a song’s success than the songwriting. The songwriter thinks he/she is the most important, the artist thinks he/she is the most important, the label thinks they are the most important. It’s a chicken/egg scenario. So I don’t think you can rely on what’s intuitive to you as an individual when determining these things.

          • David

            I would prefer not to rely on my own intuition but on an actual free market price. Unfortunately no such market price exists for songwriting, because royalties are held down by a statutory ceiling, and once a song is published the writer’s permission is not needed for its use. (Of course, there is at present free market price for music recordings either, because property rights are violated with impunity. What would be the market price of cars if anyone could walk into a car dealer’s and just drive one away? But that is a whole other story…)

          • Darren

            Major labels probably are out to screw as much money as they can as are most corporate entities,
            As an owner of a small independent Label, our splits are 50% of sales go to the online portal that sold the track, from that the publishers get between 16-30% depending on sales, the higher the sales the smaller the %, then its a straight split of 50/50 between the label and the artist, if the artist didn’t write the track then they would be responsible for the payout to the writer as the contract we do states that all licensing issues and copyright infrigments are the responsibility of the artist, usually the artist will have paid the writer for the song upfront as a one off payment, or they will have agreed a % split between the 2 of them.

            Radio like clubs, and retail outlets pay a monthly or yearly publishing fee to organisations such as PRS, whcih collects money from all outlets and stations and then distributes accordingly to the labels, artists and songwriters according to how the songs are registered with the publishing rights.

            Many artists that have had only small commercial success will be getting monthly what Aloe has been paid for 168million plays, They will not be being played worldwide in their lifetime that many plays yet earn substacially more in royalties from PRS, this is why Aloe is complaining that such companies as Pandora and Spotify should be banned

  6. Anonymous

    “we have to let any business use our songs that asks, so long as they agree to pay a rate that, more often than not, was not set in a free market”

    Thanks for bringing that.

    Pandora and similar services are legalized theft, and that’s that.

    • Irving Mindreader

      Flattered, but my wife has deft skills with sharp objects and might object in the worst possible way imaginable to third party donations of that kind.

  7. Anonymous

    The interesting part is that a notorious pro-piracy site like Wired brought this story.

      • Anonymous

        Pandora is screwed when an anti-artist blog like Wired brings a story like this.

        And that is indeed interesting.

  8. Remi Swierczek

    Let’s convert Pandora to simple discovery based music store! NOW! Spotify TOO!
    168M runs with just 1 in 100 conversion would generate $650,000 for musician, song writer, Pandora and or Shazam at just 39¢ per tune.

  9. Anonymous

    I’m getting tired of the Pandora hate. If Pandora has to pay more to songwriters (holy shit, they ALREADY pay 1.7x more royalties to songwriters then radio does), then fucking radio should pay the performer too. I don’t get why Pandora needs to subsidize the music industry while radio gets to pay jack shit.

    • Anonymous

      Any use of copyrighted content without permission from the owner should be illegal.

      It makes no difference to the artist whether a piracy site, streaming service, internet “radio” or terrestrial radio station makes money from her property without permission.

      Radio was great back in the day, but paid exposure is available everywhere now and radio is just piracy.

      • Anonymous

        I agree 100%. So why is everyone focusing on Pandora hate and not terrestrial radio?

        • Anonymous

          People are definitely looking at terrestrial radio as well.

    • Versus

      Radio does pay performers, except in this good old exploitative USA.

      So hate Pandora, and hate radio even more.

      • Anonymous

        Hate radio. Hate Pandora. Hate record labels. Hate Spotify. Hate Silicon Valley. Fuck it all, just hate everyone. But hate the artists most of all for being the origin of this disgusting industry and for producing a product who’s societal value is a tautology.

    • mike dean

      you are way off radio pay thousands of times more than streaming. u people are nuts

  10. Versus

    “the passive experience of listening to music files is worth very little to a few fans, and exactly nothing to most fans, even ad free”

    It’s apparently worth a lot. How many people would be willing to live without recorded music?
    The market is distorted by free/stolen/pirated.

    The question to begin with on putting a price on music, at least in the uncivilized capitalist system we live in, is this:

    How much would people be willing to pay for music if paying for it is the only way they can hear it?

    • Anonymous

      That’s easy, like $21-22 per CD ($15-16 a CD in the 90s + inflation). Believe it or not, piracy was trivial pre-1999, so that market is a good real world example of the value of music without piracy being a factor.

      But it’s academic because you will never, ever get rid of mainstream piracy. Once the means of mass copying, the COMPUTER, was putting into the hands of the common man, it’s over. It this has already happened. Thanks to computers it’s just way too easy to copy music, even without the Internet, that piracy will always be a major issue for the music industry. So your question is actually useless.

    • Irving Mindreader

      How many people would be willing to live without recorded music?

      Given that we’re having an economics discussion, the better question is ‘How many people would be willing to live without *owning or having paid-access-on-demand to* recorded music?’

      The answer is, the vast majority.

      Open your eyes. Open your mind. Music is a luxury, not a utility. It’s nice to have, but superfluous when the bullets of life start flying. See Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

      The market is distorted by free/stolen/pirated.

      Every market has shifting conditions. Music and media appetites have changed. Music vendors have failed to adapt. They traded long term stability for short term quarterly bonuses. In short, you are fucked because they resisted change. Don’t repeat the mistake.

      That being said, nature (and the market) abhors a vacuum. It’s just change, not the end of the world.

      How much would people be willing to pay for music if paying for it is the only way they can hear it?

      I’m sure your heart is in the right place, but you vastly overestimate how much old-format music is worth in a new media world.

      Scarcity (limiting supply, ostensibly to increase prices against constant demand) is a useless argument in a digital world. Demand is soft, consumer media expectations are higher, choices are many, and innovation was delayed. You have at your disposal the greatest distribution mechanism the world has ever known, with cheaper data, faster networks, billions of smartphones and near-ubiquituous connectivity.

      Instead of perpetuating this unconstructive belief that markets should behave constantly in the face of change, and condemning forces far greater than any of us control, why not accept those forces and use them as momentum to be harnessed by a new market in development? Put the wind at your back and be patient.

      The truth, like medicine, will heal in time.

      • Super Six Four

        You are so on point! Really enjoyed your responses, it gets me thinking.

  11. Anonymous

    FWIW, I don’t think Soundexchange admins the performance royalties on the songs. That would be ASCAP and BMI’s job would it not? And it’s the anti-trust consent decree that insures that the PROs must license the track to Pandora.

    To me, the real question in a nutshell is one somebody asked above: “[H]ow does that $4,000 compare to revenue from 168 million people hearing the same song on terrestrial radio?”

    I’m sure there are people who know the answer to this question in reasonable detail, but they are not saying it out loud. But if they were, I suspect that we’d find that 168 Million Pandora spins equals a lot less terrestrial radio spins (orders of magnitude less).

    It’s like buying a guitar on ebay for 45,738 Yen and then trying to sell it a week later and getting pissed when somebody offers you $500. You’re so attached to the big number you paid for it vis a vis the smaller number being offered that you don’t consider that the person offering $500 is actually overpaying based on the current exchange rate, where 45,738 Yen equals $400.

    Right now, most people don’t have access to the exchange rate between radio spins and Pandora streams, and those people who do have access probably don’t have a lot of incentive to educate everybody else. So they simply see these large numbers and get outraged, because back in the day, 1 million meant something in the music biz. It meant you were going to make a lot of money. In the streaming context it no longer means that. Streaming numbers, much like Yen, are a different currency than radio spins or record sales, which are more like dollars (i.e., each has more purchasing power than a single Yen).

    The real issue is that terrestrial radio is much more of a winner take all scenario. If you get in heavy rotation on terrestrial, you’re going to get a lot of spins. For example, in 2013, Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was the most played song on American terrestrial radio (at least I think it’s limited to just America). It received 749,633 plays on American terrestrial radio. Imagine how many people those spins reached? Even if each spin only reached 10,000 people on average across the US, that’s still the equivalent of 7.5 billion Pandora streams.

    But in all likelihood each spin on average reach considerably more than 10,000 people. So those 749,663 spins may well be more like the equivalent of 20 or 30 billion Pandora streams.

    Even if the listener base of terrestrial isn’t that much larger than Pandora’s listener base, Most of the terrestrial base is exposed to a much smaller range of music. So the performance royalties generated by the publishing are going to be concentrated on a more limited universe of big winners than are the performance royalties generated by Pandora.

    So even if the terrestrial performance royalty rate on the publishing is lower than Pandora’s (and I believe that it is), you’re going to make more money as a songwriter from that if you have a hit song on terrestrial. It’s like winning the Lotto. By the same token, a lot of other songwriters who might make $8 a year from Pandora, won’t every make a dime from terrestrial, even though they generated some limited spins. They are a rounding error in the statistical model that the PROs use to distribute terrestrial radio money.


  12. Anonymous

    Let’s say that 10,000 Pandora streams equal one terrestrial spin. If the headline of this article read as follows, would anyone be outraged: “My Song Was Played 16,800 Times on Terrestrial Radio. I Received $4,000…”

    I doubt it. That’s .22 for each spin.

    Let’s get more conservative and say that 5,000 Pandora streams equal one terrestrial spin. If the headline of this article read as follows, would anyone be outraged: “My Song Was Played 33,600 Times on Terrestrial Radio. I Received $4,000…”

    Maybe some people would be outraged, but that still works out to .11 per spin. So most people wouldn’t be outraged.

    If you said, I’m outraged I got paid 45,000 Yen and all I can buy is this Mexican Telecaster, anyone with a brain would be like “Of course that’s all you can buy with that many Yen. It’s like $400.” Don’t you understand how exchange rates work?

    If DMN wanted to really help out this debate in a productive way, they try to to create a Streaming radio/terrestrial radio exchange rate, which captured the differences in their respective scope (i.e., On average Pandora = one stream to one person, whereas terrestrial = one to many thousands of people.

  13. Blastjacket

    This continued argument is exhausting. Value of a product should be determined by the creator and then let the free market decide. Last time I checked that’s how most margins are set. the complications of the music business as it meets technology has not allowed this to happen and there are some people that are obviously being hurt by this. It’s going to take a long time to untangle and innovation in music (that’s creativity for all you techies) will suffer as a result

  14. Johnny G

    There are too many grabbing pieces of creators music…. societies,corporations,digital distribution ……. and to add insult to injury its been reported many times they play with the figures also ….. by playing along with their game creators do not do any good to change anything …. face the music and stop dreaming , the business monopoly like their political friends use everyone as slaves for their wealth , simply stop dreaming and remove it from their dictatorship and create your website and charge a fee to access it , if you have loyal fans they will pay to hear your music

    • Frank B

      Bingo. I am working on this concept. The key is how do you encrypt the material so when people are inside your private web site, they cant convert it to an mp3 and post it on bit torrent….

      • Tom

        I have that covered. I worked at BMI for several years, and I, individually, after working there, developed an idea to accomplish just that. Actually tried to pitch the idea to BMI, but they didn’t want it.

      • Tom

        Overall, they can STILL pirate it; but they would have to “audio record” it off the private site; then digitize that audio record; but my technique stops at least the raw/quick copying. If I can extend that technique, then I could even possibly stop the audio recording of the song off the site; so, it would close all loopholes.

  15. Steven

    Shouldn’t 168 Million spins at Pandora equal about $185,000 in Payment, as featured artist + label from Soundexchange?

    • Anonymous

      Soundexchange payments go to the person who recorded the song. That could also be the person who wrote the song. But it isn’t necessarily that person. So if you wrote a song and you did not perform on the recording as a featured artist, you will not be getting any of the $185,000 that Soundexchange received. Instead, you’ll be getting part of whatever money Pandora paid to the PRO that administers your music publishing (in the US probably Ascap or BMI).

      As others have explained, the royalties Pandora pays for the underlying composition is much smaller than the royalty it pays for the compulsory right to the sound recording.

      How that compares to payouts on other platforms (e.g., terrestrial radio) is little hard to parse for most of us, because we don’t have the information we would need to assess that well (e.g., how many people on average are touched by a terrestrial radio spin vs. a Pandora Stream).

  16. over it

    Please, will you all just shut t f up… none of you are songwriters. You are the problem and always will be…

    • Anonymous

      Some of us are songwriters, but we also understand the difference between apples and oranges when somebody is making an argument that includes false equivalencies. And our ability to use our reasoning capacity doesn’t allow us to just sit by quietly when people make arguments that don’t make logical sense, even if we sympathize with where the people making those arguments are coming from.

      That’s the thing: If the argument in this article is the best argument that songwriters have, then they have already lost. It’s just not a winning argument. There are plenty of reasons why Pandora is bad and there may well be some good arguments about why the per stream royalty rate should be higher because of what Pandora does to the market for music more generally.

      But the big number-small number argument in this article is not one of those arguments. It’s some used car salesman kind of sh*t, and just a bald attempt to garner sympathy from people who don’t understand how the numbers actually work.

      Ultimately performance royalties on music publishing are based on how many people get touched by the performance. Terrestrial radio touches more people with each spin than does Pandora. So each spin is worth more, and very few songwriters get those spins. As result, the people who do get those spins tend to get an inordinate portion of the PRO money pot.

      If 186 million Pandora streams and 30,000 terrestrial spins reach the same number of people, then why should the songwriter be paid more for the Pandora spins? There might be a reasonable argument for why this should be so, but I don’t see anyone making it. Maybe that’s because there isn’t an argument to be made. But maybe it’s because so many songwriters are so busy making the weak argument in this article that they haven’t drilled down enough to find a better argument.

      Until people get real about the actual equivalencies of spins vs. streams, there can be no meaningful debate around this stuff. And nobody really wants to have that conversation. Terrestrial radio doesn’t want to have, because it would probably lead to performance right on terrestrial sound recording plays and a higher royalty rate for them on publishing performance royalties.

      Pandora doesn’t want to have this dialog either, because it would underscore just narrow its reach is for most artists and create even more hostility from the artistic community. It would also underscore, that Pandora isn’t really a very good platform for promoting music, especially if your goal is to sell a lot of copies of something.

      The info would probably undermine its ability to lobby for even lower rates.

      It may be unfair, but songwriters get very little sympathy from the public. Articles like this one are meant to garner more sympathy. But I don’t think they work very well.

    • Anonymous

      That’s pretty stupid.

      I guess I shouldn’t eat because I’m not a chef, and I shouldn’t drive because I’m not a mechanic.

  17. huh?

    Plain and simple; don’t give them access to your music. If you are operating in the public sphere, then you must be a business man as much as a musician. Therefore, if you can’t monetize your music in fair partnership, then don’t allow them your product.

    We are living in historically important times for this issue. Now is our chance to create a strong solution. The wheel is still in spin.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Under federal law, it would be extremely difficult to prevent Pandora from playing your composition(s).

      • Frank B

        yes you are right. The key problem is the reliance on laws and practices developed over 70-80 years ago when radio was a MONOPOLY and songwriters and the public needed PROTECTION from unfair business practices by the radio stations. This license now only serves a use to the radio stations and the rest of the music oligarchy that extracts 78 cents out of every dollar earned by creatives. (and the politicians who receive the campaign contributions and perks from industry lobbyists…)

  18. Thedenmaster

    Streaming does nothing for artists. If you want to count pennies keep singing the praises of Pandora.
    If you want to lose money invest in Spotify when it goes public.



    Wake me Up is written by 3 writers: Aloe Blacc, Tim Bergling, and Michael Einziger (Source ASCAP).

    For sake of argument, let’s say the song was split in even thirds, which it probably wasn’t. This means that each writer made made $4,000. With publisher splits, that is $8,000 per writer/publisher. For 168 million spins, that is $24,000 total. Mind you this is only for Pandora. So if Aloe also got similar spins on Spotify, that would be a total of $48,000.

    Aloe Blacc made $4,000 because he controls 15% of the composition: Song is divided in thirds between songwriters, each songwriter splits in half with their publisher 30% of net songwriter royalties for the song. Aloe Blacc gets paid 15% of the gross songwriter royalties.


  20. Nate

    So… you helped write a song. .. how long did that take you?… add into it recording and editing time if you must… After that, your WORK is done. .. so even if you invested a 40 hour work week into just this song $4000 works out to what an hour?… why are you still complaining?

  21. Dan-O

    The age of hack musicians making millions off of one quickly written and produced song are over. Sweet justice. Welcome to the working world.

  22. Johnny Boy

    Don’t be a lazy cunt this is 21st century where people get music for FREE whenever they want. .. you want cash do live performances… that is all

  23. Anonymous

    Being a multi platinum songwriter and producer I can say.. Your publishing advance is the most you’ll see as a writer!!!! (100’s of Thousands on a song like this) but the REAL money like always is who owns the CR. which in this case is the Label… And the ARTIST that performs the song for pay gigs. Ask him how much he made in gigs?????? I bet he’ll smile when answers that!!!! My take, Next time… be the label.

    • Tony

      I disagree… Tell that scenario to Max Martin. He’s made millions.

  24. Dejah Fortune

    I would be upset if they werent gettin 10-100,000k per show , that said for indie artist its a lost cause. Im hoping everyone knows by now that albums are just promo to get booked for shows, which is where money is to be made

    • Coffee

      10k-100k a show?? Are you just making figures up??
      Promoters were trying to book an Aloe Blacc show here last winter and the going price was $5,000 USD

  25. Tracy Barnes

    “My Song Was Played 168 Million Times on Pandora. I Received $4,000”

    As a round number let’s say your song is 4 minutes long.

    Pandora has played your 4 minute advertisement of your name and song to 168 million sets of ears. How much do you think you can buy that for? Hint: add a few zero’s to your 4k and call their advertising department.

  26. Not to mention

    How many paid appearances and endorsement money was generated? Name one song writer that got rich even in the pre-internet days with just FM radio alone. That’s not how this works and its hard to believe Aloe is still so inexperienced. Maybe he thinks Avicii owes him some more money too from his many $150K gigs, since he got a bunch by playing that song. These articles and uninformed disillusioned songwriters are getting very tiresome.

  27. Anonymous

    Not sure why this guy is complaining. I mean he was paid by someone for writing the music already. He doesn’t own the song, some music company does. But he still gets paid for people listening to a song. He can still be writing other songs, or be out doing live shows and still be getting paid. I mean this $4000 was from one source, what is he making from other sources that play his song? I dunno article didn’t say, but I seriously doubt this person is really hurting that bad for cash.

    • Tom

      WRONG! What planet are you from? Unless he signed away complete rights (which is rare); then he does, indeed, own the song – depends on if you are your own publisher; or what contract deal you made with your publisher, etc. Bottom line: YOU (the writer) own the song, unless you “sign it away completely.” Now, you might end up doing a 50/50 or 70/30 with a publisher; but, it all depends. So, your statement is not necessarily correct.

  28. Blue

    From my point of view $4,000 (just from Pandora, excluding all other income from the song) for just “co-writing” a single song is pretty awesome. I think Aloe Blacc needs to chill and take a reality check. I mean, I’ve spent hours and hours trying to write a song or produce a beat, just because I enjoy the process. If he’s getting paid enough to make a living (and we all know Aloe Blacc makes much more than enough for a basic living), and people actually support and enjoy his music, he should be thankful. I think Aloe Blacc has officially reached snooty pop-star mentality. I mean really, $4,000 dollars just for co-writing one song. Even if he wrote the whole damn album $4,000 is already something any artist should be overjoyed about. I imagine anyone who thinks this payment is unfair needs to take a check on the reality of things. Most of us are stuck working hard for $8.00 an hour. If you want to argue about how much Pandora should be making in ratio to the artists, that’s fine, I personally feel successful companies should make music access more affordable for people, but of course then artists would be getting paid even less, which would still be probably still be pretty damn good pay.

    • Johnny

      That´s no the point, the point is, that if 168,000,000 plays, which is pretty much at the top, generates 4000 bucks, then 168,000 (a more feasible number, yet still high) will probably generate 4 bucks. That´s what most songwriters who do not write or cowrite #1 hits can expect to make. If the scaling is linear, 1 million plays could not buy you a pack of guitar strings.

      • misa

        Actually, the original comment had a point. Pandora firstly does not have as big as a streaming payout as Vevo/Youtube, Yahoo and most other streaming sites because it is a radio, not a select and steam. Someones pandora could just be streaming with no one listening because someone forgot it, and you also cant select a specific song to listen to. With this article, You also dont know their contract or split sheet, so even though he wrote the song he may only own 10% of the rights, meaning he’ll get 10% of profits which profits is after the label and publishing get a cut. Pandora is also a small fraction of music revenue. Most writers are paid either hourly during the session (if the song is made for a certain artist) or a single fee for the rights (if its already written and pitched). Then you get paid quarterly (every 4 months) for when artists perform live (given that you track all performances and report them yourself to your PRO like BMI, or if the artist’s team does, and you are appropriately listed the right percentage as a composer), radio spins, VEVO plays, endorsement deals and other licensing opportunities. Pandora is like advertisement, hardly an outlet where an artist, label or even a writer should be complaining about the pay not being adequate. Most up and coming artist are wanting to get approved for pandora so hopefully when someone clicks the chris brown station, their song will come up and they can gain a new fan. Kid ink’s rise to fame all came from Pandora….really pandora should be charging the artists like an advertising outlet, but ANYONE can submit their music to be on pandora. People like beyonce, taylor swift, rihanna, drake etc may not make their main amounts from pandora compared to a lesser known artist, but most of their money doesnt even come from the music, it comes from their brand. Themselves as a brand is what sells out shows, gets them endorsement deals and sell merchandise. Thats why touring is important for an artist. Writers are just pawns, but $4,000 in a quarter is still $1,000/month from just pandora, not even rsdio spins, licensing the song on a commercial, money from touring (which for writers theres a guarantee for ever leg, because they are liscensing the songs for the shows) and of course VEVO, which is roughly $3 for every 1,000 views online and $1 for every 1,000 views mobile, so imagine someone like miley cyrus, one direction and justin bueber whos fans try to break the most views in 24hrs record when a video debutsx so theyre getting like 22million+ views in one day. But regardless of all those outlets cry baby didnt mention, its still more than what i make from my job a month (I do hair and graphic design on the side too) and I still manage to buy groceries, get my nails done, go out from time to time, shop and pay all my bills.

  29. Don't forget

    Of course he doesn’t mention the money Pandora has paid him directly to perform live shows, the discovery element that spawns album purchases and everything inbetween.

    Remind me, how much did Aloe make from radio spins?

  30. kiplin

    So basically what you guys are saying is that songwriters do not deserve to make a living off of there work? Does anyone here actually know how much money and time it cost to write a song in the first place? Let me show you.

    usually a songwriter If not sponsored by a publishing company (Which most of us are not) has to pay for his or her own recording time. we are talking some where around 50-100 dollars an hour. This is after taking two to three days to perfect a hit single. We are already at $400 once you include a price for a good engineer to mix your vocals. The time however cannot be made up.

    After the song is done the average songwriter will shop a record to artist/ labels for about a good year or two.

    After the song finally gets placed. (If it does) a writer gets no up front money! We wait for all of our funds to come in on the back end. 8-9 months, and btw this is also dependent on album sales. (which no one buys anymore due to pandora and spotify).

    the money we make from the record must now be split with who ever wrote the song/ the artist (who always want writing credit even though they wrote nothing) their manager and the A&R that placed the record.

    so lets do the math:

    400 for the song and lets assume that we give a writer minimum wage ($8 an hour)

    then 500 for the lawyer who goes over your agreement

    40 hours a week to shop your record x 2 years would be roughly 33k before taxes

    to only make 4,000 off of a song that you have invested 33k to create makes no sense. Charge more for advertising and give songwriters there damn money. We work hard for that shit.

    • That's a HOBBY

      When you do something that you enjoy, and it costs you money, that’s called a hobby. We all have them.

      Now if you find a way to profit off of your hobby, or even offset its cost, good for you! Perhaps if you marketed to say, more than a single distribution source, even better. A good majority of top hits have been written in a night on a bar napkin. If this man ONLY made $4k over the entire life of a song, that’s doing pretty damn well for less than a page of text. True writers need several hundred pages of text before they can get paid.

  31. Anonymous

    Just goes to show u….make other moves in other industries…. Music just gets u in

  32. Julius915

    if only if they payed us as much as Muve Music does then it be a different story. Sucks that Muve Music isn’t as big as pandora.

  33. Stephen

    he’s mad about one service but if he handled his paperwork he’s making plenty off of publishing. Pandora is 1 of hundreds of sites where you can make money so 4k here, 4k there, a publishing deal and more and a good songwriter is not broke.

  34. Yor Mahm

    How much money in total did you make for that song and how much time did you put into it? If you only made $4000 total and you spent 40 hours a week for five weeks working on it you made average full time US money.

  35. pheel

    finally, a solid &, equally importantly, complete argument with reasoned conclusions! thank you “mindreader” – now that i’ve read something that fully makes sense i feel like i can get off this roller-coaster mind****.

  36. jay

    radio might not pay cash for playing your song but what you’re forgetting is that they’re promoting your product for free what if you had to pay the radio station to play your songs

  37. Who Cares?

    168 million people burned my song onto a CD and played it 168 million times…. how much do I get?

  38. Silly Billy

    Then become an engineer. Music business had its boom years already.

  39. Frank B

    Pandora is govt subsidized music welfare. Spotify is music welfare. Are you on welfare? Shame on you…

  40. fan's perspective

    Speaking only as a music fan, these kinds of articles are very saddening. Some songs have had a lasting and meaningful impact on my life and it is really a case of underpricing rather than overpricing. We need to rethink how we deal with artists and musicians, and I’m starting to see parallels between “popular” music (especially indie singer/songwriters) and classical music, which often lives off of people taking responsibility for keeping the music alive. For example, I went to see my favorite singer/songwriter who has rave reviews but not enough popularity to draw a big crowd. Entry price was 10 euros, which I considered insultingly low for the joy and meaning this artist has brought me, less than a meal at a third-rate restaurant. After the performance I rushed to the stage and shoved 300 euros in her hand, because that is closer to what I was “willing to pay” (as economists put it). This felt weird, socially taboo, and yet… why not? Maybe this discussion is ignoring the fact that many fans out there are probably willing to support artists and give them what they deserve, but are not given the means to do it. Technology has so far made it easier to pay less or nothing for music, but can’t someone figure out a way for us to give more?

  41. Anonymous

    There are millions of ‘song writers’ around the globe who would be happy to just have their song sung. Royalties need to be worked out with the artist, NOT the distributor. The true masterpiece is the end result. Songs are a dime a dozen. Many of those who sing, also write. Perhaps if the writer feels his song is superb, he could sing it himself? Bitching about what he’s paid from but a SINGLE source of distribution in regards to something that equates to a 1 page poem….. talk about entitlement mindset.

    There are homeless folk w/ instruments that will give this guy a run for his money for a single payment of $400.


  42. Latten

    How much does songwriters get off youtube listens ? So you mad cause first you get cash for ppl buying the song and then you get more cash for ppl listening to it tru radio / pandora and spotify. Are you saying your poor ? Look at max martin he co wrote alot of stuffs with 2 other ppl he aint broke. Dont hate on stuff that actually pays you.

  43. RJ

    Wait you’re getting paid to be on RADIO? Consider yourself lucky. Producers like GriZ give away their music for free. They make their money off live performances. Get with your label / manager and ask for more money. Not pandora. Or go on tour. It ain’t easy being a musician, but there’s worse jobs.

  44. me

    This is non-sense. You don’t get paid directly from Pandora, so go bitch at the label who kept your money……

  45. Jeremy

    Greed, greed, and more greed.
    You get greed and YOU get greed, everyone gets greed!

  46. Frank B

    The enemy is NOT streaming music. The enemy is piracy. And the second enemy is our own government, who continues to employ a law that was written when TV did not exist and radio was a MONOPOLY that prevents performing artists and songwriters from negotiating (and withholding if they want to) for the rights to their lifes work in a free market. The compulsory license has got to go AND its time we hold fortune 500 businesses who fund the business model of piracy through advertising revenue, and the banks that collect transactional fees and finance these businesses accountable. The reason his song paid 4000.00 on Pandora IS piracy and the compulsory license. Piracy makes the value next to nothing, and the compulsory license forces him to accept that rate.

  47. Cord Pereira

    This is exactly why Wall Street hates the streaming networks for the moment. If you have a business model where key stakeholders are not happy, you have no viable business. So until the existing regulated royalty structure is blown up, then the streaming networks can fall back on this stupid premise that they built their business atop. No one could foresee that artists and fans would have such a close relationship in the modern music mobile world. Songwriters are part of the artist DNA now. This is America. Free-market enterprise. Get rid of the mandates and regulations and the problem will fix itself. The streaming networks want to fix their broken business model as much as anyone else.

  48. Guitarist

    We musicians are stupid (and I am one of them)! Instead of reacting proactive we blame the lawyers, the managers, the whole music industry (is it a industry at all???). But in my opinion there is a simple thing to do and bring back the “value” of music back: we shall stop producing and making music now! In real economics a product that nobody want’s to pay for will not be produced anymore. No value, nor margins, no proft – no product! Why are we still making music at all? A general and worldwide strike of all musicians would cut the roots.

  49. jeremy

    why is he calling it “his” song when there are three other writers and a producer?
    misleading clickbait title, Pandora paid three times that much for the rights to the music.(which still sucks for 168 million plays no doubt, not the point I’m making)

  50. Pelican

    “By law, we have to let any business use our songs that asks, so long as they agree to pay a rate that, more often than not, was not set in a free market. We don’t have a choice. As such, we have no power to protect the value of the music we create.”

    How did Taylor Swift get out of Spotify then? Is she above the law, or did she chose to not sign a contract?

    Also, I would be more than glad to get half of that 4.000 $…
    IF I was such a gifted and talented artist and could only come up with an intriguingly witty refrain of the highest possible artistic value such as “I’m a man, I’m a man, I’m a man, yes I am, yes I am, yes I am”.

  51. Yeah Man

    With a record deal you would have made $1,000 so you are winning duh!

  52. Hmmm

    At the end of the day we live in a world where a common sense of entitlement is the norm.
    As a result, true art is very hard to make at an affordable price and therefore often stays unmade.
    Understandably, there is a lot of crap out there. These days everyone’s an artist and in the same way that consumers feel entitled to receive content for free, artists feel entitled to being paid, whether they’re music is good or not.

    A good song is a good song, simple as that. And if people couldn’t get it for free, they would pay for it.
    So the issue isn’t that streaming sites aren’t paying artists enough, it’s that the artists don’t have the right to deny streaming sites access to their songs.

    If I was to walk into an art galley, take a piece off the wall, make a million replicas and sell them at a fraction of the cost, without permission, would I not be breaking copyright laws?
    And to anyone who argues “but they do pay the artist”, it’s the equivalent of the thief throwing a penny into the hat once the artists gallery has closed down and he’s out on the street.
    All well and good for him to get a day job, but there goes another artist.

  53. Myke

    Summary of comments: “you ar an complete idiot” + “justin beiber”. I’m done reading this shit. I have music to promote… fuck!!

  54. Dave

    Has anyone here ever researched a purchase through the business with the best customer service and then purchased the item from the place with the best price?

    Do you think that a concrete sidewalk installer should be paid more when more lots of people will walk on the sidewalk?

    If Taylor Swift were ugly, would you expect her to be rich?

    Van Gogh sold his paintings to buy more art supplies. Should he have held out for more?

  55. Remi

    if you don’t like it, pull your music. Go find another way to make money. Be innovative…stop looking for handouts. Make a change, make a difference. Or play their game and continue to lose, but stop complaining.

  56. Anonymous

    Ok so you made 4k from spotify…my question to you is how much woukd you say you’ve made overall from writing and performing that song? Ya exactly, sorry i dont feel sorry for you. Love the song, never gonna pay directly for it! You make a great living doing what you love. Maybe you should just be greatful for that, about 95% of people on the planet cant say the same.

  57. PurpleTrekki

    Maybe I’m weird, but, I buy music after listening on Spotify/Pandora; to make sure it’s worth it [to me]
    — and/or I listen to old stuff I’ve already purchased, which far easier than downloading CDs (and I don’t have iOS devices that can access stuff I purchased on my iTunes).

  58. BianchiSan

    That’s unbelievable. It took 3 people to write “Wake Me Up!” by Avicii?

    • rds

      It took two to write “Yesterday” Music is rare talent and also it a hard job

  59. I tried not to respond...

    A very small percentage of the people commenting on this are informed.

    For starters if you’re with BMI or ASCAP you get paid for traditional terrestrial radio. Thanks to the new model all the money is in the live performance since it seems like the only thing you can control as an artist is your likeness. When they figure out how to clone or replicate an actual performer this will like a song have no real market value.

    That said check out your ticket prices over the last decade because if your listening for free you’re paying more to see an artist in person…Its the only option we have been left with. So the next time you go see artist XYZ in concert and pay easily $100 for a nosebleed seat remember that it’s the only time you paid them anything regardless of how many years you’ve been listening to them online.

    • ACTUAL songwriter

      Thank you for writing some sense on this page. From an actual songwriter and performer for over 20 years. It’s refreshing to hear someone with knowledge speak. Too many people think that working and jobbing in the industry is a the gravy train, it just simply is not. When complaints arise about ticket prices, no one has the sense (and logic) to connect the dots: there just isn’t that much money in the music industry anymore.

      Consumers who value music should compensate their artists for it, otherwise the industry will completely disappear. You would never ask a tradesman to come to your house and supply the materials and labour so you could have a floor for free, then complain when he asks you for gas money, so why is it okay to do the same thing to an artist?

  60. rdt

    This is not Pandora’s, Spotify’s, iTunes’, Napster’s, etc fault. This is the gradual digression of society’s value on all things artistic. Accountants, Software Engineers, and Lawyers are professions that society sees as the key contributors. Musicians are a dime a dozen and people are numb to the amount of energy and will it takes to create a song. As soon as music listeners realized they didn’t need to pay for music it was a matter of time that they chose not to. The end result is a society that is losing its soul in some ways in favor of a salary. Call this a grand conclusion if you will, but this is a truth I have discovered.

    • jw

      The irony is that it wasn’t technology that turned music into a commodity, it was the industry itself. In trying to reach the lowest common denominator, & in trying to replicate previous or concurrent successes, & in trumpeting it’s own contributions to a process that is otherwise artistic, the industry first treated music as a commodity & the fans simply followed suit.

      Interestingly, Taylor Swift releases her least personal record yet, & a record that is more producer-reliant than anything she’s released, & yet she’s taking the consumer reaction more personally than ever before. Those two things don’t totally jive, & come across like, “Oh you’re all about the benjamins now.”

      • fan's perspective

        I think you’re quite right about the commodification of art backfiring on the music industry. All these different modes of payment, Amazon, iTunes, pandora, spotify just makes this worse. Music is not a product like ice cream, or an ipad, and we shouldn’t treat it that way. Like I said above, artists and their labels should enable fans to support artists. Now it’s pretty much buying the songs for a dollar each. Many have good paying jobs and would totally support the artist directly if it didn’t seem like “buying” but being a patron of sorts.

  61. Bob

    The question beckons. Who is Aloe Blacc

    The answer. I don’t care.

    But he should get his head out of his ass.

    Dude, someone paid you money for your song

    • Bob

      One day I hope I’m talented enough to mix a few loops and a beat and have a hit. Then I’ll make $4,000.,00 🙂

      • Bob

        Don’t get me wrong. I do like the song “Wake Me Up”

        But really what ever happened to the days when a musician played an instrument instead of a computer?

  62. other

    buhuu. Don’t expect becoming a millionaire by writing a song with 5 people. If you are not able to write a stupid song by yourself…

  63. The Commonsensualist

    So stop putting your music out there like that, and stay away from the music industry.

  64. jw

    Kind of bogus that it’s Tuesday & comments that I posted on Friday night still haven’t shown up.

  65. jimbo

    Sure money is down on streaming, album sales e.t.c, however money is up for artists on endorsement deals and performance fee’s. How much does Avicci get for a show? I’ll tell you, mega bucks! and Aloe doesnt do too bad either.

  66. waltman

    Cry more to your record label kid. Pandora pays more than any other service for your “art”… including radio stations.

  67. hellboy

    notice he did not mention how much he gets in “performance” royalties from Pandora. if spun 168 million times, Pandora paid about $250,000 in PERFORMANCE royalties for this song. radio paid ZERO as they don’t pay performance royalties. The “songwriter” royalties might not be enough in songwriter’s eyes… which is understanable, but that is a record label/ASCAP/BMI issue… not a streaming issue. musician’s have been getting the shaft from record companies long before the advent of streaming.

  68. Contrarian

    Is that when I listen to music and attempt to expand my horizons a bit 90% of it is pure junk and/or stealing/plagiarizing others – you should pay the original songwriter/artist first. The other 10% are good to great – they will usually get more listens. Actually, we should ask these “songwriters” and “artists” and the streaming service to reimburse us for what amounts to a fraudulent service.

    There, that should get some blood boiling.. 🙂

  69. Luther G. Carwell Jr.

    I am an A&R Representative for Conquer Entertainment let me show you another more profitable avenue market your talents.
    Luther G. Carwell Jr. – Certified Artist Developer / Trainer
    Conquer Entertainment

  70. Craig Byrd

    This is very misleading. The subject was one of several co-writers that split the intellectual property, plus he seems to have no involvement with the production or marketing of the song. This recording that Pandora is paying on is probably less than 5% “his song”

  71. Robert Redmond

    So sad this reality people think they should get everything for free, the latest plaque o. Business in Ireland is people bringing their own beer to a Pub , a this o. Top of people thinking they can take pics in a photo studio which regularly happens in mine sick.

  72. Free market

    If you don’t like the fact that you only received 4000 dollars, you can always get another job. If you did that, the demand for songwriters would increase and you would possibly be able to get more money. Until this happens stop complaining there are a lot of you guys out there.

  73. John Dugdale

    I think this is a very strong debate based on something which has become a very hot topic currently. It is well known artists get ripped off now that the digital world has taken off, artists such as Noel Gallagher who is a multi millionaire complains that people will pay £6 for two coffees – but ask them for £6 for your song and they would look at you all strange. I dont think Noel can complain about the music industry – it has provided well for him. But the lesser known artists are what I feel is important. It is a balance for them to get heard, to network and also earn to be able to make a living, to be able to continue what their passion is. People have to be fair, but if you can get something for free – the initial thought is why would you pay. Artists and bands, musicians in general need to realise this and they also need to build their own loyal fan base. Nothing is easy. I’ve come across a new platform that is being released in early 2015 called MeWe Music – it’s aim is to support the artists, be fair to the artists and reward and promote them. I hope it works, but it can only work if artists and fans are supported fairly, they need to grown with their fan base and put the effort in. With this effort fans – us – need to be supportive and fair. I’ve seen an App in the states which artists use as they receive donations – how cool is this – people donate for great music and support artists. This is how it should be. From what I have heard, this is MEWE Music’s hope and benefits – when it launches I hope fair artists support it as it is trying to support them.

  74. Making money

    THIS IS ALL BS!!!!!

    Why? Because even in other fields NOT everyone is successful.
    More money has always been made by artists that tour vs ones that don’t.
    Very few(as a percentage of the whole) of artists make a living from selling CD’s
    Not everyone who applies to medical school gets in and becomes a DR.

    I used to have arguments with new musicians 10 yrs ago who NO ONE had ever
    heard of that were unwilling to give any of their music away for free.
    They would think of their songs as their children and were so afraid
    of loosing the rights to a song, or that someone would steel it.

    IF someone never hears your music, you are guaranteed to fail.
    I have friends who play music in Broadway shows, and other commercial
    music types, this type of job is still out there, and many people
    make a living as musicians(I live in NYC)

    Now that the radio is dead fo hearing new music, you have to give something
    away for free, at least initially, or you will fail.

    • Rubby

      Loosing? Really?

      This is all BS!

      Radio is NOT dead for hearing new music. In Seattle it is huge, and they broadcast internationally. Radio in Europe is still huge. Streaming is a road to undercutting your own pay. Not worth it.

      • Kingofnomedia

        Streaming or no streaming this is a business and is commercial.
        For every band that makes it, 1,000,000 dont. It’s not that it’s bad or good.
        I don’t think it’s either, it’s just what it is. Everyone thinks they have
        something special, people think their birthday is special, but
        18 million people in the USA share theor birthday.
        I’m a looser indie musician, I love making music, I have 4 CD
        of my music out there, and I make $14 a year net from my music.
        I don’t pretend to be something I’m not.
        I don’t like being told I diluting the music scene,
        I think I’m the next Ralph jones, what do you think of that!!!!!!!!!

        • Michael Jaxon

          like Peter Murphy of Bauhaus said, you have to be good to come out of England. If not fuck off

  75. Alan Jay Wescoat

    Wow! He made $4,000 for co-writing a song. He did not even finish the whole song himself, and he made $4,000 from it. That is awesome!

  76. Ffatcat

    I think one of the major factors being overlooked, is album/single sales made. While it takes large amounts of plays to make money directly from these streaming services, this article does not address the impact these streaming services have on sales directly to the artist. After reading this article, the reader is left with the impression that this poor artist is being exploited, when in fact the artist is being paid to advertise their own music. It has been proven time and time again, that sites like Pandora, Spotify, Google Music, or were ever you decide to get your free music help to increase single sales the most and then album sales next.

  77. dave

    This entire page clearly illustrates allot of guesswork from people that don’t know what the fuck they are talking about.

  78. phoenix

    Could someone please help me? I am just wondering what you would propose to do if you could wipe the whole system clean and start again. I mean the WHOLE thing: I am really interested in the bit where the rights user has to pay money to the rights holders (which they have generated through advertising or subscription).How much should terrestrial radio pay in royalties, how much should streaming services pay? If all the legacy issues where removed what would be be the best solution?

  79. SupportGoodMusic

    People always ask why pay for music when you can get it for free. Your answer : Because it is not supposed to be for free. Why would an artist want to sell something in stores and have another group of people access it for free? It makes no sense. One group is stealing , the other group is paying (doing the right thing).

  80. Anonymous

    if you signed with , it’s not even signing with all you have to do is buy our software for $1000 you would of received 8.4 million in royalties, Millennium Music Media….get it or get got!!!

  81. joe

    How much did ascap pay you? I’m a restaurant and trying to decide who I should pay the licensing fee to. I have read a lot of good about pandora, who is now working with Mood , DMX and muzac . I want to do whats right for the singer song writers. Thanks

  82. musico

    Something happened a long time ago that is coming home to roost. It might have been when they first sold records of Jimmie Rodgers and Bessie Smith and created something bigger than life, the first super-stars. Or maybe it happened when Paganini figured out he could book shows in cities far away, dress flamboyantly and charge unheard of prices for tickets. Gold/Platinum records.Huge advances from labels… Course correction!

    I come from a generation when music was anthemic. We thought we were changing the world, and there were songs that were on everyones lips. Some of those songs (Beatles, etc) made someone a lot of money (often not the artist OR the writer). Some songs stated simple truths we, as a culture, now completely ignore.

    I am a musician, some people think a really good one, and Ive even gotten some major recognition as such, nationally and internationally. I work hard, but make very little money, way below poverty level. In some ways it sucks. “But you’re doing what you love!” “Get a job!” Ive heard all your platitudes… save your breath. It happens that I know how to enjoy life. But often its not easy, and it is far from matching up with the paradigm in your tv and magazines.

    I make CDs that get great reviews. Some people tell me I have changed their lives. But CDs dont sell much anymore – in fact, neither do downloads. “Oh, I dont buy music any more!” U-huh, I got a check last quartet from Spotify – $0.98. Radio? My last check from BMI, several years back, was for less than the price of the stamp it was mailed with – its here on my wall. Ive read all your rants about the current distribution model, and all your justifications too.

    But it doesn’t stop with corrupt record companies or streaming media. Gigs, on a local level or even a independent touring level, pay less than they did 20 years ago. People in the wealthiest cities look for “free music” places and venues feel no need to pay for entertainment at all, really. And small venues get shut down regularly when BMI or ASCAP come and strong-arm them for thousands they dont have. A very few fans contribute way more than their share when the hat gets passed – but many people get offended when asked for money.

    And there is always a new wave of kids with fancy new music gear bought by Mommy & Daddy, who are dying to break in and bring their enthusiastic fans with. The manager says, “I can get a 6-piece band for the same I pay your trio!” And then there are the semi-retired doctors, lawyers and stockbrokers who always wanted to be musicians and can now afford to play for nothing, regardless of the quality… not to mention singers who cant carry a tune, but hubby can bank-role them to hire back-up bands. And then there are the musicians who followed the time honored path – teach if you cant perform – who have figured out they can run a class “Learn How to Play in a Band” and they get the venue to put them in the rotation – for free!
    Everyone knows the stories about the people who want a wedding band for $800 – miles away, a list of music to learn. Weve all heard the musician jokes – “$5000 worth of gear hauled 100 miles for a $50 gig” “Musician without a girlfriend = homeless person” etc. Strange thing about these phenomenea – no one seems to care, much, how badly this affects the overall quality of music. Very apparent in the “Music Mecca” syndrome we have in some cities.

    The facts are – we in the US live in a wealthy country that can afford instruments, instruction and encouragement for kids (a good thing!) Like many cultures before us we hold in high esteem the gentleman musician who plays and sings for his leisure enjoyment, but denigrate the professional “Yes, but what do you do for a living” So a lot of people have some musical ability, but there are a lot more who expect to perform publicly than we have venues.

    In some cultures the musician was/is highly valued. African or griot or djeli and Indian musician caste are supported by the community, but they are also expected to wake in the middle of sleep for a birth, a death, sacrifice of livestock. We only have to cross the border south to encounter a place where musicians are held in much higher esteem.

    But never fear, we spread our values quickly. Soon everywhere, like here, music will be simply a commodity, accessible at the click of a button, sound track for running, biking, commuting, something we can put away when we arrive. Add to that the Business of “got talent” – perfect for the “industry” where stars are made or born, not developed.

    I am not afraid. Real music, played live, will never lose its power, will always melt our hearts and reveal the mystery that nothing else can touch. But meanwhile, the business of music is streaming its way to the back of the bus in our collective culture, constantly re-invented by our choices, unconscious and conscious.

  83. Analyst

    I see the problem as a simple resource allocation. For one dollar a music service collects from the consumer, I would invite the critics of the system (I tend to count myself among them, although I don’t know exactly how music business works) to write a table of roles and “fair share” percentage from the money each in entitled to take. The list would look like:

    Music service infrastructure (software, servers, bandwidth)
    Music service advertising
    Cost of sales (credit card processing)
    Label (divided into lawyers, experts, advertisement)
    Sound engineer
    Artist association
    Government tax

    Would the percentage change for example if the artist is famous or just a rookie?

  84. animaljammer727


  85. animaljammer727


  86. Matt TheDopestMatrix

    I think that all we can assume is that Pandora is still a huge opportunity. Of course, it does suck knowing you only made $4000 off the song, but that’s a fortune in some artist’s eyes. PLUS you have that extra step into the “millions” sector of music. You have a huge opportunity. a little money means nothing if you could potentially become the next top 40 artist.

    Id love to show you a new single I’ve been working on and connect, because you seem to have a lot of good ideas! If you have a facebook, you should send me a friend request!

    take care!
    Matt TheDopestMatrix

  87. Anonymous

    AWWW the signed artist isnt making MILLIONS while bottle necking the rest of the artists from being heard! AWWW I should care…but I dont! WHAT THE SIGNED aRTISTS WOULD RATHER HAVE, is a situation where they get FAR FAR more, while BLOCKING access to the non signed artists. They do this by making an environment where they push to have ALL their music stripped from pandora, leaving only NON radio artists, knowing that a Brain dead populous would be hard pressed to be willing to stay with music that isnt filled with VIVO artist and Music award artists. THEY REALLY want to block the regular musicians from making anything…THE REALITY IS, this joker would have gotten 12 k for that song that only had millions of SPINS AND NO BUYS for HIMSELF if HE were the creator of the music, and wasnt signed to people yanking the money from him. Its the taylor swifts and folks like THIS bozo that has screwed us all on Youtube, so now people like THIS joker, gets “millions and mliions” of instant views on youtube, keeping them on the front pages, and the local artists with REAL views are watching their view counts get frozen. GOOGLE pandered to the labels. SO TOO BAD BRO…YOURE NOT GETTING THE MILLIONS SO WE ALL CAN GET PAID. sorry..YOURE NOW LIKE THE REST OF US. drop the label, and make your OWN music and keep ALL the money..THATS the new record industry. NOTICE THAT WHEN “pandora making money” is googled, THIS PAGE comes up first and foremost before pandora’s own pages comes up. IN OTHER WORDS, THIS PAGE is being pushed to come up first BY PAYING GOOGLE…not because of popularity. GET OFF THE LABEL and take your money. You would have 12 thousand in your pocket. FOR JUST LISTENS. no one is buying cds and mp3s so the BIG MILLION DOLLAR PAY DAY IS IMPOSSIBLE unless you learn to SHARE THE MONEY with the local NON LABEL artist. SORRY…but its time to come back to earth. Your music is not WORTH millions. because you people are making LOW QUALITY that is so LOW, that people that cant play instruments AT ALL can make it nowadays anyhow

  88. Brad Proulx

    Just recorded a live version of my Original Song “Jump And Soar” on Kauai at the oldest home on the island. Thanks for listening! “What do you live for? What would you die for? When will you find more?”

    Brad Proulx

  89. Anon

    My music has been heard millions of times, and has been sold on CD soundtracks both physical and digital…it has appeared in videos by PewDiePie and Cry on YouTube, with at least 3 million plays from their two videos alone. It has been sold on amazon and streamed and torrented and heard over and over and over.

    I have not made a single cent!


  90. Nimrod

    $4000 sounds about right. How long did the author spend to make this “hit song”? In almost every area of life, laborers toil for months and with pride in their work and affecting the lives of others no less than music for that amount of pay.

    Now let’s talk about the real issue, which is why finance, government, military, and the management class are compensated disproportionally and not according to market forces.

  91. blah

    Millions of people make original music every day and don’t get paid. The arts won’t die because someone’s not getting paid. Most of it is better than the crap being spun.