Musicians reiterate objection to Pandora-backed royalty plan


Digital DownloadsThe MusicFirst Coalition is taking the occasion of a Pandora financial results release to repeat its objection to a Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) bill proposal which they feel would level the playing field between digital music distributors by taking money out of the wallets of musicians.

Pandora is not pleased that there is no performance royalty charged to AM-FM radio stations, but it is more interested in balancing another set of numbers – the 50% of gross revenues it pays in royalties compared to the estimated 7.5% paid by the likes of SiriusXM.

The Chaffetz draft bill would do just that. Musicians have no general objection to equal rates for different platforms, but not if it means one platform pays less while another stays the same – resulting in less income for musician.

A competing draft bill from Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is much more to the musicians’ liking – among other things, it would try to use radio station streaming fees as an interim measure to extract the money Nadler believes they should be paying for broadcast airplay, until such time as an airplay royalty is instituted.

According to the New York Post, MusicFirst is about to embark on a campaign to education its members on the current activities on Capitol Hill.

MusicFirst and an organization weighed in on the topic earlier in August, providing a point-counterpoint on some of the issues involved.

RBR-TVBR observation: Did anybody notice one of the basic facts underlying the recent agreement between radio and BMI? The number is 7,500,000. That is the number of songs in the BMI catalog.

I have no idea how many songs are included in my own personal collection of recordings, which still includes a heaping helping of vinyl from the days before the CD became the distribution medium of choice, but I’m sure it is nowhere even close to seven and a half million.

The challenge for musicians isn’t making a few pennies every time somebody streams one of their tunes, its getting noticed in that vast ocean of material at all.

We have personally bought music from artists we had never even heard of that we first heard on Pandora. Isn’t that good for musicians?

Setting the bar so high that similar services can’t even get started strikes us as penny-wise and pound-foolish. Just saying…

Meanwhile, radio remains invaluable to artists. Whereas services like Pandora reach one person at a time, radio makes music familiar to a mass audience. To this day, its value is recognized by musicians who are thrilled to report how fast their tunes are climbing the airplay charts. The quid pro quo of airplay for promotion remains effective and should be left as is.