Music Business

Pandora’s Westergren Talks Serving Musicians, ‘Calmer’ Royalty Debate

image from www.dalecarnegiewaynd.comPandora founder Tim Westergen has always billed himself as a friend of the artist, citing his early days as a touring musician himself.  But ad Pandora has grown, he and his hugely popular online radio juggernaut, have had to endure some sharp cristicsm from some in the artist and label community. That's led to a less talkative Tim. But a few days ago, he opened up to VentureBeat for an interview that included how well he thinks Pandora treats musicians.

In comments made prior to yesterday's seismic court ruling on non-payment of royalties to artists who recorded prio to 1972, Westergren said, "It’s calmer now. It’s calmer. But there’s always a constituency that’s trying to create controversy and drive an agenda. It’s an industry that’s experienced a huge loss. So I can understand why emotions are running high." He may feel differently today.

When VentureBeat asked: "Is there a way to make sure independent artists get paid well for their music without further lining the pockets of record labels and publishing groups?," Westergren answered:

image from"Speaking from Pandora’s perspective, there are two ways we interact with artists on the compensation piece. We give 55 percent of our gross revenue to licensing. The majority of Sound Exchange (which collects licensing fees on behalf of artists) comes from Pandora. Publishing rights cost about 4 percent and performance rights is north of 50 percent.

…The real emotional statistic that keeps getting the soundbites and that gets musicians riled up is the per song royalty you pay, which is just a fraction of a penny. It’s easy to point to that, but it ignores the volume of plays that most artists get. It’s a misleading soundbite.

Compare that to AM and FM radio, which don’t pay any performance [royalties]. So you have artists like Aretha Franklin who has never been paid royalties for all the radio play she has gotten, because she didn’t write the music and didn’t own publishing rights. [HYPEBOT: Many of Franklin's most popular recordings are the same pre-1972 recoriding that Pandora, Sirius and other digital broadcasters have refused to pay on...]

It’s just a classic chapter in the story of tech disruption where you have a lot of people throwing darts. But when they see there’s this whole other world on the other side, and people start to calm down."

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