Artist Gets $16 For A Song That Pandora Streamed A Million Times

A million of anything is pretty much always an insanely impossible number. Winning a million dollars, having a million Twitter followers, selling a million products — anything done a million times is something to be proud of. But maybe not getting your song streamed on Pandora a million times. All you get sometimes is 16 measly dollars. Or $16.89 to be exact.

David Lowery, songwriter and musician, had his song he wrote "Low" streamed 1,159,000 times on Pandora in the past quarter. That's a pretty huge number, right? Certainly more than the 116,260 times "Low" was streamed on Spotify or the 179 times Sirius XM played the song. The difference was Spotify paid $12.05 for the 100,000 times and Sirius paid more than a dollar per play ($181.94). So how the heck did Pandora get away with just paying 16 bucks for a million plays? It's the US government's fault.

No, seriously. US Congress sets the rates of which artist royalties are paid. Lowery explains:

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).

Pandora is barely giving anything of worth for using the songwriters and artists' music. The $16 Lowery got represented 40 per cent ownership of the song as a songwriter (the other portion belongs to the band). He does note that being a performer of the song gives the artist a separate royalty but that even though it's a bit higher, it's also "quite lame".

So the next time you like a song maybe support the artist by streaming somewhere else. Or buying their album. Or going to their concert. Or just giving them money when you see them on the street. [The Trichordist]

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    If I like a song by one of my favorite artists; Miracle Of Sound, I just buy the song through Bandcamp. $1 is more than they would get if I streamed it and it is available in lossless format instead of compressed MP3's. Trust me; you CAN tell the difference!

      I bet you can tell the difference playing from an iPhone through the standard headphones.....NOT

      more importantly, so can the artist :)

    Hate to be the harbinger of woe.. but it is kind of his fault. If this is something that you intend to use to continue to earn money, you need to maintain it. He didn't do anything to have the song show up on Pandora.. merely gives permission, and gets paid. The official music video on Youtube doesn't link to a place where I can buy the album. I'm assuming that this article is just clickbait, purely to hype the fact it was only $16. Pandora is one small piece of a much larger puzzle, and one song out of a career. At least you gave a few options at the end of the article.

    Songwriters generally only get around 5 cents per song even on physical album sales, where the consumer is allowed to play the song hundreds or thousands of times at their leisure. Services like Pandora are closer in function to radio stations, yet they're expected to pay higher royalties than a radio station has to pay. In fact, the difference between digital and radio royalties was enough to cause Pandora to buy a radio station recently so they'd be able to get access to the cheaper royalties that radio provides.

    'Number of plays' is a misleading metric that leads to situations like this. Per-play metrics like radio can't be compared with per-purchase metrics like album sales or iTunes. The latter gives the consumer significantly more freedom and access to the product, and correspondingly costs more.

    So, when i pirate albums, send the artists $5, i am actually doing more for them then the big 'legal' companies are?

    It's good to be king.

      Now there's an idea. If only i could get all my favorite bands PayPal accounts so i could drop them $$$ bypassing all this record label, itunes, streaming subscription schmuckery.

      Almost like a direct to artist honesty box.

    so am i right in saying that the best way for these artists to get what they deserve is for all of us listeners to avoid streaming services like pandora?

      The artist is having a cry. As you can see from the photo he is using multiple streaming services, and youtube and radio stations.
      More importantly there is no information given on how much those 1 million plays affected the sales on itunes or concert tickets or merchandise.
      How would his "other" sales look if he didn't have the exposure to a potential 1 million listeners.

      Someone would have to sit down and write out all the finances over time to make sense of it all. Musicians already make most of their money from touring, merchandise, licencing and advertising. How much money does an artist get after Apple takes their cut, after the publisher, shop, distributor takes their cut?
      In a digital world, where the market is flooded by music, exposure is everything.
      No one is going to buy your music, t-shirts or concert tickets if they don't know who you are.

      It's pretty simple. If they weren't making money (or were losing money) by streaming online for free.... they wouldn't do it.
      Clearly there is a benefit otherwise what's the point. Pandora and Spotify go to a lot of effort to secure the rights to play music. If the publishers didn't see a benefit from it, they wouldn't allow it. It's that simple.

      Also read what ZombieJesus posted above - also very good points.

      Last edited 26/06/13 3:31 pm

        Revenue from a song is broken down into roughly these percentages. Different artists negotiate different rates, but these would be about average. These figures come from an analysis in the US, and may be different in Australia.

        - 30% goes to the retailer
        - 30% goes to the record label
        - 20% goes to distribution
        - 5% goes to manufacturing
        - 7% goes to the artists
        - 5% goes to the songwriters
        - 3% goes to the producers

        At digital, the retailer, distribution and manufacturing costs get merged and there's some reduction in cost there, but from what I hear the record label takes a larger cut as well, so the last three percentages are about the same.

        Last edited 27/06/13 6:32 am

          Someone did the math.... Interesting read

    whats the gripe, youtube pays less then pandora does.

    While it seems that Pandora are being stingy, they justify the less pay per stream as the songs are somewhat random, and cannot necessarily be chosen by the users. So it's unfair to compare streaming a song once on Pandora with a single stream on Spotify. You would expect a stream on Spotify to be more valuable (and pay more).
    So while Pandora’s pay is a bit crap and stingy, it’s also understandable that its lower than other services in the context of its business model and shouldn’t be directly compared with them.
    At the same time, Pandora also lets people hear artists and songs which they otherwise wouldn’t (I know i've discovered a few and have since purchased or streamed there music through other channels), and is great in that context.
    This could lead to higher streaming/sales through other mediums, such as itunes, albums or spotify, or even more people seeing them live. Essentially this may boost, or create additional value for any individual artist.
    Although, it is absurd that the US Government essentially fixes and controls the price. It would make far more sense for artists to bargain or be able to request the price of their songs. This could even change in line with how many people are listening to them and how popular they are.

    I hope someone invents a virus that destroys the computers of spotify ( free music leechers) buy their cd s you fucks!

    which is still better than the listeners, most of which are so tight they would not even pay a cent for listening to the same song kazillion times. That's reality.

    Last edited 26/06/13 11:15 pm

    Check out if you want to know how artists can really make money from their art!

    The other problem with this per play metric, is that it reflects exactly how many 'ears' have listened to it and really skews the. A radio company could pay a small fee per play, but depending on how big their audience is, 1, 000, 000+ people could listen at a single time. In Pandora world, this would equate to a million plays, but just one for the radio. So in reality, all streaming sites pay waaaaaay more than radio stations. Because Of The difference in Measurement, these metrics can't really be compared side to side for radio, but can be for the other streaming site. But since Pandora doesn't specifically let you choose the song unlike Spotify (access on demand), I think it's more than fair.

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