I Made More From Selling A T-Shirt Than From 1 Million Plays On Pandora

David-loweryBy David Lowery singer/songwriter for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven.

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.

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 their free service. Here’s an idea! Play two minutes of commercials and double your revenue! (Sirius XM plays 13 minutes and charges a subscription).

I urge all songwriters to post their royalty statements and show the world just how terrible webcasting rates are for songwriters.

The revolution will not be webcast.

* I only own 40% of the song, the rest of the band owns the other 60% so actually amount paid to songwriters multiply by 2.5 or $42.25)

** Also I am also paid a seperate royalty for being the performer of the song. It’s higher but also quite lame. I’ll post that later this week.

To compare Sirius XM paid me $181.00


Terrestrial (FM/AM) radio US paid me $1,522.00


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  1. Thanks David for sharing these data. Maybe Hypebot can post a bigger version of the screenshot so we get the bigger picture.

  2. Tell me? Can we pull our material off of Pawndora? I can’t see why any established band or artist would not pull their material or likeness. They don’t need the $9.69 per Million plays! And they don’t need the exposure! Why not Boycott?
    R. F.

  3. I think what is deceiving here is the 1,159,000 plays, That is more likely 1,159,000 impressions or total audience reach with Pandora. If a radio station had a quarter hour audience size of 1,000,000 listeners and played the song once it would be roughly 1,000,000 impressions not 1,000,000 plays, where with Pandora every listener hears different songs at different times. So it isn’t an accurrate comparison with terresterial radio and Sirus. I’d also like to see what I-Heart radio paid him, they get a special rate since they are owned by Clear Channel which owns radio stations and gets a deal. I don’t think Pandora has ever said they shouldn’t pay royalties but companies like Sirius pay a MUCH lower rate. Gotta work something out because internet radio isn’t going away and can be very beneficial to artists, especially newer artists that can put a monetary value on the exposure

  4. ‏@Rocco_TheStreet “You realize that when you spread that story around you’re spreading bull shit right? You’re ignoring the facts and any context.”

  5. Yes, I think that band merchandise is going to become increasingly important to a musician/band’s marketing efforts. When I go to concerts now, I’m always surprised by how little time the band spends promoting their merchandise, which could include hoodies, jewelry, jackets, hats, etc. They could even have a couple attractive friends model the clothes, and explain the importance of merchandise sales to their being able to make music.

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