For many people, streaming music services are the way of the future. After all, they give the listener access to an entire library of music that, in some cases, includes songs that they wouldn’t otherwise purchase for a surprisingly low monthly fee. Who could say no to that, you might ask?
Well, some musicians have been suggesting that – if you really care about music – then perhaps you should be one of those preferring to buy music instead of subscribing to an online service that streams it directly to your device of choice. It’s not actually the delivery system that’s at fault, they explain, but the level of royalties that the streaming services pay in exchange for the music played. An amount so small that one streaming service, Pandora, is facing a lawsuit that could force it to pay more money to musicians and songwriters.
But, you might wonder, how little money are musicians receiving as part of the current, controversial royalty rate? Is this a case of the streaming service offering too little money, or musicians and songwriters being greedy and wanting too much? One musician offered an end to the confusion by revealing exactly how much Pandora paid him for more than a million plays of a song he wrote during a financial quarter.
In a post on the Trichordist blog, David Lowery of the band Cracker explained, “As a songwriter, Pandora paid me $16.89 for 1,159,000 plays 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.”
Lowery goes on to explain that he only owns 40 percent of the songwriting royalties of the song, “so actually the amount paid to [solo] songwriters multiply by 2.5, or $42.25.” Using that $42.25 as a base line, and going on the 1,159,000 number of plays, that translates into 0.003 cents per play on Pandora in terms of songwriter royalty.
For comparison, Lowery also shared his radio royalties. From Sirius XM satellite radio, he received $181.94 for 179 plays – That’s $454.85 for sole songwriters, given Lowery’s 40 percent ownership, or $2.54 in songwriter royalties per play. From terrestrial radio (Both AM and FM), the song “Low” earned him $1,373.78 for 18,797 plays. Again, using the 40 percent rule, that comes out to $3434.45 for total songwriter royalty for the quarter, and 18.271 cents per radio play.
“Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t Pandora get off the couch and get an actual business model instead of asking for a handout from Congress and artists? For instance: Right now Pandora plays one minute of commercials an hour on its free service. Here’s an idea! Play two minutes of commercials and double your revenue!,” Lowery adds, before asking “all songwriters to post their royalty statements and show the world just how terrible webcasting rates are for songwriters.”
In previous statements on the matter, Pandora has said that it “values and respects those who create music and seeks to pay a rate that is fair to all artists.”