Pandora’s misguided plea


The founder of internet music service Pandora is asking those who use his service to get behind the Performance Rights Act by contacting their US reps and asking for a yea vote – ranking among the most counterproductive legislative requests we can ever recall seeing.

Founder Tim Westergren wrote, “The system as it stands today is fundamentally unfair both to Internet radio services like Pandora, which pay higher royalties than other forms of radio, and to musical artists, who receive no compensation at all when their music is played on AM/FM radio.”

He asked that reps be contacted. “We would be very grateful if you could take just a minute to call and to thank for their support of the bill. It takes very little time, and we can tell you from our own experience that it DOES make a difference. The voice of constituents has a great impact.”

He also said that spending 10 years as a working musician left him in sympathy with recording artists.

RBR/TVBR observation: Westergren isn’t necessarily wrong to seek a level playing field. But he should be working with broadcasters to level it in such a way that both broadcasters and webcasters get full credit for the promotional value they bestow on the recording industry.

SoundExchange made it seem like it was giving up a lot in the recent rate agreement with internet music sources, but most observers don’t seem to think the deal was all that great for the webcasters. Many think web leader Pandora may survive with the negotiated rates, but many if not most smaller businesses will probably not be so lucky.

We realize that webcasting is in its infancy that perhaps could not negotiate from a position of strength. But we know from personal experience that Pandora can drive music purchases, because we have personally bought music we first heard there.

Pandora, like radio, provides free exposure for musicians, exposure that is necessary if they are to sell their wares.

That symbiotic relationship between radio and recording has been recognized for decades and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t work the same way for webcasters and satellite services. So Westergren should be leveling the playing field by trying to shed the royalties, period.

And the recording industry, not Pandora, should be fairly compensating artists.

In closing, allow us a word or two about musicians. We too worked as a musician back in the day, and many of our colleagues still do. The vast majority of working musicians are never going to be the headliner on a big time hit record. Those who have achieved that goal, who have achieved that level of fame, are the least likely to be hurting for cash (not to say that many aren’t hurting – it’s a tough business). PRA gives the record companies at least 50% of all collected royalties, 45% to the headliners, and a pathetic, miniscule, insulting 5% to the vast majority.

Most of our musician friends really don’t care about this issue, because they know it will not affect them one way or the other. It’s welfare for record conglomerates, pure and simple.