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How Pandora F**ks Independent Artists

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Camper Van Beethoven: Screwed by Pandora

I love internet radio company 'Pandora'. I've discovered tons of new artists through them and am a paid subscriber. But paying artists $16.89 for a song played over 1 million times on their player is not cool at all. A member of the band 'Camper Van Beethoven' wrote the following scathing blog post on TheTriChordist, decrying Pandora's shitty treatment of their artists:

As a songwriter Pandora paid me $16.89* for 1,159,000 play of “Low” last quarter.  Less than I make from a single T-shirt sale.  Okay that’s a slight  exaggeration.  That’s only the premium multi-color long sleeve shirts and that’s only at venues that don’t take commission.  But still.

Soon you will be hearing from Pandora how they need Congress to change the way royalties are calculated so that they can pay much much less to songwriters and performers. For you civilians webcasting rates are “compulsory” rates. They are set by the government (crazy, right?). Further since they are compulsory royalties, artists can not “opt out” of a service like Pandora even if they think Pandora doesn’t pay them enough. The majority of songwriters have their rates set by the government, too, in the form of the ASCAP and BMI rate courts–a single judge gets to decide the fate of songwriters (technically not a “compulsory” but may as well be).  This is already a government mandated subsidy from songwriters and artists to Silicon Valley.  Pandora wants to make it even worse.  (Yet another reason the government needs to get out of the business of setting webcasting rates and let the market sort it out.)

I get that we're in an extremely tumultuous time for independent artists (and journalists/publishers/writers etc etc), but this is pretty ridiculous, particularly given Pandora is valued at $1.64 billion, has been funded to the tune of almost $60 million, and  is now profitable. Businesses are struggling to invent new ways of monetizing content and music, but surely their models have to take into consideration the product they are actually selling, and pay people an acceptable amount to produce it.

In comparison to Pandora, Sirius XM paid Camper Van Beethoven $181.00, and terrestrial (FM/AM) radio US paid them $1,522.00.