I am a composer, instrumentalist, and pianist. While I am grateful that I have been able to supplement my income and make a living from Pandora royalties, I am disappointed to see my royalties on a collision course with a future payout of $0 per month.
What’s worse, this royalty payment decrease is not only affecting me. It’s affecting dozens — if not hundreds — of other artists like me. I am in a few communities and Facebook groups of independent musicians, and almost all of us are reporting that our royalty payments are headed toward zero.
For most of us experiencing the issues, the drastic decrease began after May 2016. Over the years, a ‘summer slowdown’ has been common, and then the number of spins increases again in September. In 2016, however, the spins did not return — in fact they continue to drop.
On average, we are seeing a drop of 50% to 70% of our spins.
Families relying on this income are having to find other things to do. Composers who had time to create more music are now looking for day jobs.
I am friends with composers who went from $3,000/month to under $1,000, and another from $1,600 a month to $700.
Even holiday spins, which are only good for one month a year, are down. In 2015, I had 80,000 plays on December 20. On December 20 in 2016, I had just over a quarter of that. I can speak for most of us when I say that my past four or five royalty payouts have been the lowest, and lowest, and lower still… each month sets a record for the smallest income I have received. (FYI: Payments come via SoundExchange, are paid three months after the spins occur, and are almost entirely comprised of Pandora plays for most of us.)
When we ask Pandora Artist Support about this trend, we get vague or inaccurate answers. They have said that they “cannot comment on other artists’ spins” or that these are “natural ebbs and flows” for spins on the platform. We respectfully disagree: payments have been consistent for three or four years. And it’s simply impossible that all of us are only 30% as popular on Pandora as we were in May.
There is nothing natural about the trend.
The lack of transparency from Pandora and the reasons given for the decline are quite frustrating.
Some artists are concerned that they have not entered the correct licensing agreements with Pandora. (Example: Who is Music Reports? Why have they contacted some artists and not others? Does Pandora favor Music Reports artists over other artists?)
Others take the broader view that Pandora listenership is simply leaving the platform. However it seems that while total spins per artist are going down, the total of number stations for each artist is actually going up(!). There is simply no correlation. We really have no idea.
The bottom line is this: Pandora created a middle-class existence for hundreds of artists for several years, but now the incomes are getting close to nothing with no end in sight. And with no explanation whatsoever from Pandora.
I really thought Tim Westergren was proud to have created this artist middle class, but those artists are now going away to find other sources of income. Art will suffer, music will suffer, composer passions will suffer, and fans will suffer.
All we really want to know is: why?