We've talked about the carnival of smoke and mirrors that seems to be Pandora before. in which Camper Van Beethoven multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Segel a musicians hired by pandora to be a "listener advocate" was fired for speaking his mind. In other words, disagreeing with the business practices of the company.
And now here comes a new disagreement, as reported by Huffington Post, involving a back and forth email exchange between Pandora founder Tim Westergren, and musician/producer Blake Morgan.
You may not know Blake Morgan, but apparently, he was popular enough to have his music played nearly 28,000 times in the third quarter of last year, only to paid a grand sum of one dollar and sixty two cents from Pandora.
Pandora, if you're not already familiar, worked with (lobbied?) the Internet Fairness Radio Act which would have reduced the royalties for musicians. Westergen, by the way, donated more than $65,000 to various candidates including the author of the Internet Fairness Act.
Reading the email exchange is fascinating.
In one letter Westergren writes to Morgan:
"We're seeking a balanced structure that allows musicians to generously participate in the business, while also accelerating its growth. Every hour that moves from AM/FM to the web is good news for musicians, as AM/FM pays zero royalties to performers. There's definitely a win-win to be had."
He goes on to say that over 500 musicians have already signed on their support. One of them being Amanda Palmer! I kid. I don't know that for sure. I just assume so.
But Morgan is having none of it and his answer is quite pointed.
I hear you when you say you're "seeking a balanced structure that allows musicians to generously participate in the business." But respectfully –– and this is quite important –– musicians are what your business is built on.
Without us, you don't have a business.
The idea of "allowing" us to "participate" in a business that is built solely on distributing and circulating our copyrighted work is like a grocery store saying it has an idea to "allow" the manufacturers of the goods it carries to get paid. The store isn't "allowing" Del Monte to get paid for their cans of green beans, right? Of course not. The grocery store pays for the can of green beans, and then monetizes it themselves for their own fair profit. If the store couldn't pay Del Monte for their goods, Del Monte would pull those goods, and/or maybe the grocery store would close.
So part of the argument Pandora has made in support of the so-called Internet Radio Fairness Act is that internet radio is a burgeoning and fragile medium that is, in fact, in danger of closing. That it's an industry that needs a little boost right now, at its beginning, just to get going –– or it will collapse. Consequently, the Act proposes to reduce musicians' royalties by up to 85% from the tiny amount they're even paid now (although you say that you have "no desire to lower royalties dramatically," it's clearly stated in the bill).
But there's a problem with this argument. I couldn't help notice –– because it's been so widely reported –– that you yourself earned a reported $13.9 million last year from cashing in stock options in your very own company, Pandora. Being wealthy and successful is certainly no crime, but I'm sure you can understand how to the objective and rational observer, it's difficult to see you making a fortune on the one hand, while you and your company are pleading economic and industry hardship on the other.
Just like Segel, I suspect Blake Morgan wanted to give Pandora the benefit of the doubt. But how quickly did they realize their new boss wasn't just the same as the old one but worse. At least music labels made sure you earned more than $1.62 per 29 thousand spins of your music. Despite what they say it is beginning to become more and more apparent that there are two sides to Pandora: the one that purports to be the ultimate equalizer for all musicians, and the one where only the heads make millions off the backs of artists, and not only have no intention of really fixing it, but are actively supporting bills that continue their status quo.
And while Pandora supposedly loves having an open dialogue with musicians, they don't want necessarily want them on the pay roll where they can voice their opinions, like Segel. But seeing as how Segel's latest work with Camper Van Beethoven is on Pandora, it seems they're still more than happy to make a buck off his music.