My Song Was Played 168 Million Times on Pandora. I Received $4,000…

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    aloeblacc

    from an op-ed this morning in Wired

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    By law, we have to let any business use our songs that asks, so long as they agree to pay a rate that, more often than not, was not set in a free market. We don’t have a choice. As such, we have no power to protect the value of the music we create.

    The abhorrently low rates songwriters are paid by streaming services—enabled by outdated federal regulations—are yet another indication our work is being devalued in today’s marketplace.

    Consider the fact that it takes roughly one million spins on Pandora for a songwriter to earn just $90. Avicii’s release “Wake Me Up!” that I co-wrote and sing, for example, was the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th most played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than168 million streams in the US.  And yet, that yielded only $12,359 in Pandora domestic royalties— which were then split among three songwriters and our publishers.

    In return for co-writing a major hit song, I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.

    If that’s what’s now considered a streaming “success story,” is it any wonder that so many songwriters are now struggling to make ends meet?

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    Comments (95)
    1. Anonymous


      Reply

      1. Anonymous

        What do you think it feels like to work for free and see fat cats like Mr. Westergren get rich from stealing your song?
        Reply

        1. Pandora pays+too+much

          Probably not as bad as you feel going through life stupid, and with a chip on your shoulder.

          Pandora did not steal anything from you or any other artist. Pandora pays what they are obligated to pay to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Radio pays nothing and generates 30x more money than Pandora. Why are you not attacking them?
          Reply

          1. Anonymous

            “Radio pays nothing”

            That may be true in your country but not in the rest of the world.

            “Why are you not attacking them [terrestrial radio]?”

            Oops, you missed my other posts :) — here’s what I said again:

            It should be illegal for radio stations to use copyrighted content without explicit permission!

            Radio was great back in the day, but paid exposure is available everywhere now and radio is just piracy.
            Reply

            1. Pandora pays+too+much

              And stations should be able to charge a label whatever they want to in order for a song to get a spin in L.A., N.Y., S.F., Miami, Dallas, Houston, etc. Be careful for what you wish for.
              Reply

              1. bloodyhell

                Radio actually pays a lot. To have your song paid on a national public station like NPR or BBC yields $25 a track. On commercial radio its even more per play.
                Reply

              2. Willo

                Thats ridiculous! I’ll let you clean my car if you give me $50.
                See. Sounds kinda stupid doesn’t it?
                Reply

                1. Pandora pays+too+much

                  It still takes radio spins in big cities to create a hit. There are only one or two stations per city per genre playing no more than 15 songs per hour. If your song is not being played during the morning or late afternoon, you can’t have a hit. So, how much do you think a label will pay to occupy those slots? The answer in a free market is: a lot. The answer in our free market is: it’s illegal. If you get rid of compulsory licenses, you should also get rid of payola laws.
                  Reply

        2. Stephen K

          How can any of you actually defend pandora??? We are talking about songwriters here, not justin beiber. It is extremely difficult to make it as a songwriter (or any sort of artistic career for that matter), and you are saying Pandora, who currently hit $240 million in third quarter sales is justified? I don’t like to throw this word around, but are you retarded? The whole reason these royalty rates were passed into law was because of record label lobbyists… please do any sort of research before commenting asinine responses.
          Reply

          1. Pandora paystoomuch

            Nice combo. You are misguided, and rude.

            You should be fighting with Pandora, not against Pandora. Pandora is getting artists paid from radio (in the US) for the first time in 50 years, yet you are making it as hard as possible for them. It’s true that most of the royalties Pandora pays go to the owners of the recorded master, but song writers are being paid as well, and at a disproportionately higher rate than radio. Your problem is with how the royalties paid by Pandora are split between the recorded masters and the publishers. That is a fight with the label, not with Pandora. To advocate killing the goose, so that you get more of the goose’s egg than your brother, is fucking RETARDED. The informed thing to do is to go fight with the labels about what the fair split is, and do whatever you can to make sure the goose lays more and bigger eggs.
            Reply

            1. Songwriter

              Actually- did you not comprehend what Stephen K said? He is not talking about “Artists” – are you a complete idiot and not know the difference between an artist and a songwriter? Songwriters compensation on digital streaming is fcking insane. 168 MILLION streams of a hit song will bring Songwriter(S) and their Publisher(s) about $12,000 – so if there are 3 songwriters they each make only $4000 and that may often be cut down to $2000-$3000 if the songwriter has to give 25-50% away to a publisher. Meanwhile the big name artist makes millions on a tour and sponsorship. So really, pull your head out of your dumbass and see things more clearly. Songwriters are getting completely screwed by streaming music services. Pandora and Spotify take 30% of revenues? They should only take 10% and they should be raising their advertising rates so that more money can be paid back to the songwriters and artists, although artists really have never been paid for airplay because they benefit from sales and tours and sponsorships….but sales are obviously are now shrinking because of this free music for all bullshit and not every artist has the benefit of being a superstar capable of doing a headline tour. So get a fcking reality check.
              Reply

    2. adolf

      he’s just a fvcking co-writer.
      Reply

      1. Johnny G

        Adolf , whats the sleezy trick you used to bypass this websites’ system’s humanity verification?
        You obviously relate very well to synthetic and artificial binary tables … you must therefore just some tiny little bit!
        Reply

      2. Max

        You’re an idiot and clearly have no idea what “co-writer” even means in the music industry. If John Lennon and Paul McCartney write a song together, they are co-writers. Almost every song you’ve listened to in the last 50 years has been co-written.
        Reply

    3. Mike

      another crap post by paul.

      who cares what a co-writer earns?

      f… him!
      Reply

      1. Nina Ulloa

        yeah, forget him! all co-writers should make $0!

        ….right?
        Reply

        1. Anonymous

          Nina, how does that $4,000 compare to revenue from 168 million people hearing the song on terrestrial radio?
          Reply

          1. Anonymous

            You’re so right — thank you for bringing it up!

            It should be illegal for radio stations to use copyrighted content without explicit permission!

            Radio was great back in the day, but paid exposure is available everywhere now and radio is just piracy.
            Reply

        2. Dumbasses

          You guys need to fking EDUCATE YOURSELF and LEARN about how the distribution is supposed to work in music industry. “Co-Writers should earn $0.” FOR GOD’S SAKE, DO YOU even KNOW what the “CO-WRITING” is all about? Let’s say artist A wrote his(or her) song with another composer B. So people will remember it as A’s song, but under the copyright law, the copyright goes under two people(A and B) 50:50. “Co-Writing” means not just helping a certain artist to write a song a little bit, it is clearly meaning that the song was written by TWO PEOPLE. Do you think playing a song 168 Million and getting ONLY $4000 are insane? Well- then you gotta FCKING EDUCATE yourself. Nowadays, music stream players like Pandora and Amazon music pay so little for the artists. Spotify pays even more. Have you ever thought about this in the perspectives of the artists? I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift, but let me quote her phrase that she said on her interview a few days a go. “Arts are rare and people need to feel the appreciation. If it’s free, who’s going to create any arts?” I totally agree with this. Let’s say your favorite artists like Bruno Mars, Usher, and John Legend all published their albums and they end up getting paid like nickles and dimes. And let’s say they were just debuting with those albums. Do you think they’re able to continue? Under the copyright law, it’s currently fking 9.1 cent per CD. So most of the artists nowadays don’t earn any shit from albums. What do they do? They beat their asses off doing the promotion, live performance, and advertising. People complain about the ads on YouTube, but HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT WHY ALL THE MUSIC ARTISTS ARE DOING THE ADS ON YOUTUBE NOWADAYS? You must be kidding me. Reading all the comments here just smashed my head – dealing with IDIOCITY.
          Reply

    4. Anonymous

      How does that $4,000 compare to revenue from 168 million people hearing the song on terrestrial radio?
      Reply

      1. Anonymous

        Again, you’re right:

        It should be illegal for radio stations to use copyrighted content without explicit permission from the owner!
        Reply

      2. Pandora pays too much

        Pandora paid $218,400 to SoundExchange for playing the song to 168,000,000 total listeners once. The artists registered with SoundExchange got about $100,000 of that directly. That’s indisputable.

        Terrestrial radio played the song to at least 168 million people and paid zero to Avicii or his label. That’s indisputable. It is impossible to know what the song writers/publishers received from radio for 168 million total listeners hearing the song once, but it is a fraction of the $12k Pandora paid.

        Pandora works for musicians, even ones that can’t do math.
        Reply

        1. Anonymous

          “Pandora works for musicians”

          :) Don’t be silly — musicians hate Pandora even more than they hate Spotify!

          Here’s why:

          You can demand that your music isn’t played on Spotify — Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Adele, Coldplay, Black Keys, Beatles, AC/DC and lots of other acts have done so with great success.

          But Pandora is exactly like the Pirate Bay: You can’t prevent them from making money from your songs without your permission.
          Reply

          1. Pandora pays too much

            You are ridiculous. Your GuitarCenter rewards card does not make you a musician, and your comments certainly do NOT reflect the views of professional musicians.

            Professionals love Pandora because they make money from radio for the first time ever (in the U.S.). And they make that money directly, whether they are recouped or not. It’s already hundreds of millions of dollars and it will become billions over the next several years.

            As for removing your music, let’s acknowledge that you don’t have that problem, your music is not on Spotify, Pandora or radio. It’s on cassette tapes in your mom’s basement safe and sound.

            U.S. law does not give anybody the right to remove music from radio, which includes Spotify’s free version and Pandora. If you release in the U.S. via any format, your music can be played on radio. Period.

            Pandora is not the same as Pirate Bay. Pandora is licensed, and 100% legal, and very beneficial to the music industry (e.g. people who make a living from music) . Your statements otherwise are slanderous, and you should stop making them.
            Reply

            1. Stephen K

              Pandora Pays Too Much is either a troll or works for the company. I don’t have a degree in special education, so I’m not sure the best way to debate children with mental health needs
              Reply

              1. Central Scrutinizer

                That’s funny and sad at the same time

                This entire thread is filled with trolls who do not understand the difference between performance artists and songwriters let alone how each gets paid
                Reply

            2. bloodyhell

              Radio DOES pay artists a lot of money. In fact, on a public national like NPR, CBC or BBC artists receive $25 per play. On commercial radio, its even more. Its called publishing, and the money is collected through agencies like ASCAP or SOCAN in canada.
              Reply

            3. Anonymous

              “Professionals love Pandora”

              lol
              Reply

            4. David Baerwald

              Pandora Pays Too Much. What planet are you living on? Everything you’re saying is untrue, from radio royalties on down. I’ve been working as a songwriter/composer since 1986. I own a publishing company. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
              Reply

    5. jw

      Let’s put this in perspective. People didn’t click on his song & choose to listen to it. It came on a radio station, even if it was the Avicii station.

      Let’s say a major station broadcasts to 300,000 people at any given time. That’s 560 plays. Let’s say that’s 19 plays in each of 30 major markets. What’s your payout there? Certainly not $12,359. What’s a songwriter payout for a major market… like 7 or 10 cents per play or something? 560 x $.1 = $56. So his cut of that is what… less than $15, right?

      If I’m very far off, someone with more experience in this type of thing should correct me. But I’m quite confident that his payout for that sort of exposure on terrestrial radio would net a double digit return.

      He’s right, $4,000 isn’t a ton, but it’s also nothing to sneeze at. And as Pandora continues to grow, those payouts will grow. But I think he’s got an inflated sense of what 168m radio streams actually means, & what kind of ad revenue that actually generates, & how that actually compares to terrestrial radio payouts.

      Then again, he’s an artist, not a business person. His manager should be explaining these things to him.
      Reply

      1. GGG

        This is a perfect example of why this industry is in such a shithole. Why can’t people just put out all the facts and make full arguments instead of just going all in on one side? I don’t mean to defend Pandora because I’m not a big fan of them, and I’m not even saying $4K is all he should get, but he also left out the part where Pandora is paying Aloe Blacc the songwriter AND Aloe Blacc the performer. All he could have done was put some numbers out there for terrestrial radio play, stating the fact he’s missing out on a royalty they don’t have to pay, and now we’ve got a discussion. Show some context. Show some comparison, then make an argument about WHY that rate is low, and how much he thinks he should be paid.

        Instead it’s just more click bait, from him, from DMN, from all over the place. It’s a joke.
        Reply

        1. jw

          What’s interesting is that, not only do people go all in on one side or the other, they don’t even put any thought into it. You deserve more than $4,000 for these plays? Alright, fine… I’m perfectly willing to entertain that. Why do you deserve more than $4,000 for these plays? Because you just feel like you do? Welcome to the club, we all feel like we deserve more! Personally, I feel like I should have a Lamborghini in my driveway. But there are real factors that go into this, because Pandora’s directive is not to just print money for artists. Because that’s illegal. The government won’t allow you to do that.

          Just once I’d love to hear one of these songwriters actually make a sound case for their want for more money. For all I know, someone might totally change my mind on the issue. But it’s going to take more than “I deserve it” or “I think I deserve it” or “I feel like I deserve it.” This isn’t something that should just be taken for granted.
          Reply

          1. Chris

            I would like to hear this from another angle.

            People should be able to make a living writing songs. What system would enable that? How much would streaming services, radio, albums, tours, etc., have to bring in to make that possible?
            Reply

        2. William J earley

          Good point. We need to compare and show context on this subject to help us form a constructive opinion. Hear is a classic example of forming conclusions based on bad comparisons from out of scale maps. One of the TV networks will always show a map of all the backed up airplane traffic in the sky caused by some weather event. On the map, we see a cluster f-ck of planes over some region of the country. It looks REAL bad. Well no, it really isn’t bad at all. The scale of the map is all wrong. One plane takes up enough space to block out the size of a whole county! Four planes take out the skies of northern New Jersey…and so on and so on with all the planes jumbled all up. The scale of the TV map should be the size of several city blocks! What we really have is an orderly, multi level layers of airplanes in the sky in a holding patterns and re-routing to different airports…NOT some chaotic jumble of bad graphics from some lazy TV news network, trying to mold our opinion into panic about some weather event. Context is everything.
          Reply

      2. GGG

        PS-that’s me adding onto you, JW, not attacking your post.
        Reply

    6. There is something…

      I’m sure Avicii is doing fine…
      Reply

      1. Versus

        He’s ill, actually.

        But what does this statement prove?

        Avicii would not be doing so well if he were dependent only on streaming Pandora for his income.
        Reply

    7. Irving Mindreader

      First, a little math, then some tough love.

      For the sake of exercise, let’s assume there’s an amount of royalties that would have satisfied Blacc, or at least not so disappointed him as to prompt this op-ed.

      For the sake of round numbers, let’s assume that figure is $1,000,000 (one million dollars) USD. Not an unreasonable sum, in a vacuum, given the tremendous volume of spins. It was a big song. I’m sure the public performance checks are staggering, by comparison. If I were in his shoes and didn’t know what I know, I’d probably feel the same way.

      Given the 70% revenue share burden Pandora already pays to artists and rightsholders, and the challenge of them ever turning much profit, the only way royalties rise is if subscriptions rise first.

      $1,000,000. is 250 times the $4k in royalties he received, thus Pandora subscribers would need to be paying 250 times their $4.99 mo, or a whopping $1,250. per month.

      Fifteen grand per year, each.

      Maybe more subscribers will join, but those are the present metrics.

      While I’m not unsympathetic to the desire for greater royalties, those $1M expectations are divorced from reality. As would be anything more than his $4k, however fractional, under the current model.

      The problem is not an unfair split. 70% is fucking righteous. Artists and rightsholders should count their blessings that Pandora and Spotify (et al) are even still in business. Hopefully they’ll survive long enough to adapt. You need more, not fewer, people fighting to create value in the ecosystem of artists and fans.

      The PROBLEM is….the passive experience of listening to music files is worth very little to a few fans, and exactly nothing to most fans, even ad free. If anything, that disparity is worsening, and (as Lars Ulrich can attest) shouting ‘Fuck you, Pay me’ at music fans does not magically make more money rain from the sky.

      It only makes you hoarse, and the fans deaf.

      The world of consumers has evolved. They grew up with the web, and millions of choices, and instant gratification. Their media expectations are higher now. The value proposition is different now. Audio-only media isn’t enough. Just playing a song is boring. That ship sailed years ago. All this complaining only makes you sound out of touch.

      Until very recently, your labels and publishers let you down by stifling innovation, and hijacking technology investors, instead of accelerating development of new media standards that fans would happily pay for. Wouldn’t it be easier to dazzle the fan into paying more, rather than threatening and guilting them?

      This isn’t a new conversation either. It’s been going on for 20+ years, with many of the same people shouting the same prescient Chicken Little message from day one. They warned, nobody listened, and the sky fell. When the world went digital, the bundle came undone and label owners cried all the way to the bank. (Until the CD fell too.)

      Now some of those bad label/publisher habits have changed, and innovation is starting to speed up, but it’s not enough YET to close this crucial value gap in the mind of the consumer. Innovation takes time, and the most interesting stuff I’ve seen privately is months or years from wide market release.

      In the meantime, lead, follow, or get out of the way. Just please quit bitching. It doesn’t help, and just muddies the water. Many good people are working their asses off to save you from drowning. Most of that effort you’ll have to take on faith, just like those of us managing innovation, putting the time in, betting on the come.

      There are better days ahead, for you and the consumer.

      Hang in there.
      Reply

      1. jw

        Where’s the like button?
        Reply

      2. Sequenz_

        Have my kids.
        Reply

        1. Irving Mindreader

          Flattered, but my wife has deft skills with sharp objects and might object in the worst possible way imaginable to third party donations of that kind.
          Reply

      3. Versus

        “the passive experience of listening to music files is worth very little to a few fans, and exactly nothing to most fans, even ad free”

        It’s apparently worth a lot. How many people would be willing to live without recorded music?
        The market is distorted by free/stolen/pirated.

        The question to begin with on putting a price on music, at least in the uncivilized capitalist system we live in, is this:

        How much would people be willing to pay for music if paying for it is the only way they can hear it?
        Reply

        1. Anonymous

          That’s easy, like $21-22 per CD ($15-16 a CD in the 90s + inflation). Believe it or not, piracy was trivial pre-1999, so that market is a good real world example of the value of music without piracy being a factor.

          But it’s academic because you will never, ever get rid of mainstream piracy. Once the means of mass copying, the COMPUTER, was putting into the hands of the common man, it’s over. It this has already happened. Thanks to computers it’s just way too easy to copy music, even without the Internet, that piracy will always be a major issue for the music industry. So your question is actually useless.
          Reply

        2. Irving Mindreader

          How many people would be willing to live without recorded music?

          Given that we’re having an economics discussion, the better question is ‘How many people would be willing to live without *owning or having paid-access-on-demand to* recorded music?’

          The answer is, the vast majority.

          Open your eyes. Open your mind. Music is a luxury, not a utility. It’s nice to have, but superfluous when the bullets of life start flying. See Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

          The market is distorted by free/stolen/pirated.

          Every market has shifting conditions. Music and media appetites have changed. Music vendors have failed to adapt. They traded long term stability for short term quarterly bonuses. In short, you are fucked because they resisted change. Don’t repeat the mistake.

          That being said, nature (and the market) abhors a vacuum. It’s just change, not the end of the world.

          How much would people be willing to pay for music if paying for it is the only way they can hear it?

          I’m sure your heart is in the right place, but you vastly overestimate how much old-format music is worth in a new media world.

          Scarcity (limiting supply, ostensibly to increase prices against constant demand) is a useless argument in a digital world. Demand is soft, consumer media expectations are higher, choices are many, and innovation was delayed. You have at your disposal the greatest distribution mechanism the world has ever known, with cheaper data, faster networks, billions of smartphones and near-ubiquituous connectivity.

          Instead of perpetuating this unconstructive belief that markets should behave constantly in the face of change, and condemning forces far greater than any of us control, why not accept those forces and use them as momentum to be harnessed by a new market in development? Put the wind at your back and be patient.

          The truth, like medicine, will heal in time.
          Reply

          1. Super Six Four

            You are so on point! Really enjoyed your responses, it gets me thinking.
            Reply

    8. Name2

      Dearest Aloe:

      If 168 million people paid .99 every time they demand-spun your song, and you got $4k, then yes, you were robbed. Is that in fact what happened??
      Reply

    9. David

      OK, let’s do some more math.

      Commenters seem to be overlooking the fact that this is an issue specifically over songwriter/publisher royalties. The problem is that the proportion of all royalty payouts going to songwriters/publishers from internet radio (such as Pandora) is ridiculously low. For comparison, the writer/publisher mechanical royalties on a record or download release are approximately 10% of the retail price. The record label and recording artist will not get all of the remainder, but let’s say they get up to 50%, which means the ratio is approximately 1:5, if not better. A ratio of 1:5 hardly seems over-generous, and anything up to 1:1 would not be obviously unreasonable.

      So what about internet radio? Pandora pays out roughly a tenth of a cent per listener/play in total royalties. On total plays of 168 million, that implies a total royalty payout of around $168,000. Of this, according to the Wired post, the *total* writer/publisher royalty payment was just over $12,000, or just over 7% of the total royalties. Does anyone argue that this is a fair share?
      Reply

      1. GGG

        No, but this is also why these op-eds by artists are usually meaningless. No matter how much we may all hate Pandora, there’s a massive difference between $168K and $12K, obviously. And these articles are always written like Pandora is cutting checks directly to whatever artist. There’s a lot of middlemen in that equation, from SE to the labels, that need to be examined and potentially held accountable.

        Again, this is not defending Pandora, it’s just people leaving out crucial information. And I think it’s done both by people who really don’t know how it works, to people purposefully leaving out information to prove a point. Which is just harmful to the overall cause.
        Reply

      2. jw

        The reason for the payout disparity is that the songwriter isn’t fronting any money for the production or the marketing of the song.

        Aloe Blacc, as a songwriter & guest performer, gets paid from day 1. Avicii starts out in the whole tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

        If you want equal payout, you have to take equal risk. Oftentimes artists never recoup & don’t make a dime. Many times labels don’t break even. This is not something a songwriter has to contend with, thus the disparity between the payouts. I’m not saying the split, as it exists, is perfect, but certainly a disparity is justified.

        Also, I looooove that Aloe Blacc’s name isn’t mentioned anywhere in the article. Just an unattributed quote. lmao.
        Reply

        1. jw

          Consider this… a songwriter writes how many songs? And how often are they hits? And yet… each time a label is paying for the production & marketing of the song. If a songwriter writes a dud & a label decides to cut the track, the songwriter gets paid from day 1 & the label might go deep in the hole.

          The labels, therefore, make up for bad investments when there is a hit song. But then the songwriter comes running & says, “Pay me, bitch!” BUT if these payouts are calculated just based on a smash hit song, all of the sudden the label isn’t in a position to invest in more recordings. What might make sense as a payout for a hit song, outside of the greater context, no longer makes sense when you consider the dozens of duds that the songwriter has put out & the label invested in without seeing a return.

          As a songwriter, you only have a leg to stand on if you only write hits, thereby eliminating the risk on the part of the label/artist.

          Context, people. Context.
          Reply

          1. jw

            That is all to say that… if the payout ratio is 1:5, you’re kind of building in a 20% success ratio for the songwriter. So the label invests in 5 of the songwriter’s songs, 1 is a hit & 4 are duds, both parties come out 1:1.

            Is 20% the right ratio? I don’t know, but it’s not outrageous, the way you’re trying to make it sound. Of course this is offset one way or the other by recording & marketing budgets & what not, there are a lot of variables at play that we can look at to really see what’s fair. But why aren’t we looking at the variables? Why can’t we have that conversation about what really, objectively determines fairness here? Why is it always just songwriters shouting “more, more, more, more!”?
            Reply

            1. David

              You seem to be missing my main point, which is that the payout to songwriters on internet radio, as a proportion of total royalties, is much lower than on records (CDs, downloads, or whatever). This can hardly be explained or justified by the costs of making records! As to the ‘fair’ share of payments, I agree that a full consideration would need to take account of the costs and risks incurred by the various parties. But, intuitively, it is much easier to make a successful record from a good song than to come up with a good song in the first place, and the rewards should reflect this.
              Reply

              1. jw

                I’m sensitive to that, which is why I used the sales ratio rather than the streaming radio payout ratio.

                The thing is, if the ratio is 1:10 or 1:5 or whatever, this guy is still going to be complaining, “I only got paid $8,000!” or “I only got paid $12,000!” The reason he doesn’t feel like he has to explain why he’s outraged is because his expectations are so far beyond what’s reasonable… he’s probably expecting to buy a house off of what is tantamount to a few hundred major market radio spins. Or at least a nice car.

                Now, there may be specific reasons that internet radio payouts are particularly skewed towards the labels, outside of the fact that the labels own the sound recording & ultimately control the distribution, & are out to wring every penny out of everyone they do business with (including songwriters). I don’t know, I don’t function in that world. But I think this conversation is a good start in unearthing those things. I would love for DMN to track down someone qualified to illuminate without bias exactly what forces are at work here.

                I will say, however, that there’s nothing intuitive when it comes to who deserves what in regards to a hit song, & it varies from song to song. One could argue that, if the song were really THAT important, mainstream music would be a lot better than it is, & music wouldn’t just be background noise for most people. It would be very easy to argue that sex appeal & marketing have just as if not more to do with a song’s success than the songwriting. The songwriter thinks he/she is the most important, the artist thinks he/she is the most important, the label thinks they are the most important. It’s a chicken/egg scenario. So I don’t think you can rely on what’s intuitive to you as an individual when determining these things.
                Reply

                1. David

                  I would prefer not to rely on my own intuition but on an actual free market price. Unfortunately no such market price exists for songwriting, because royalties are held down by a statutory ceiling, and once a song is published the writer’s permission is not needed for its use. (Of course, there is at present free market price for music recordings either, because property rights are violated with impunity. What would be the market price of cars if anyone could walk into a car dealer’s and just drive one away? But that is a whole other story…)
                  Reply

    10. Anonymous

      “we have to let any business use our songs that asks, so long as they agree to pay a rate that, more often than not, was not set in a free market”

      Thanks for bringing that.

      Pandora and similar services are legalized theft, and that’s that.
      Reply

    11. Anonymous

      The interesting part is that a notorious pro-piracy site like Wired brought this story.
      Reply

      1. Anonymous

        That’s not interesting at all.
        Reply

        1. Anonymous

          Pandora is screwed when an anti-artist blog like Wired brings a story like this.

          And that is indeed interesting.
          Reply

    12. Remi Swierczek

      Let’s convert Pandora to simple discovery based music store! NOW! Spotify TOO!
      168M runs with just 1 in 100 conversion would generate $650,000 for musician, song writer, Pandora and or Shazam at just 39¢ per tune.
      Reply

    13. Anonymous

      I’m getting tired of the Pandora hate. If Pandora has to pay more to songwriters (holy shit, they ALREADY pay 1.7x more royalties to songwriters then radio does), then fucking radio should pay the performer too. I don’t get why Pandora needs to subsidize the music industry while radio gets to pay jack shit.
      Reply

      1. Anonymous

        Any use of copyrighted content without permission from the owner should be illegal.

        It makes no difference to the artist whether a piracy site, streaming service, internet “radio” or terrestrial radio station makes money from her property without permission.

        Radio was great back in the day, but paid exposure is available everywhere now and radio is just piracy.
        Reply

        1. Anonymous

          I agree 100%. So why is everyone focusing on Pandora hate and not terrestrial radio?
          Reply

          1. Anonymous

            People are definitely looking at terrestrial radio as well.
            Reply

      2. Versus

        Radio does pay performers, except in this good old exploitative USA.

        So hate Pandora, and hate radio even more.
        Reply

        1. Anonymous

          Hate radio. Hate Pandora. Hate record labels. Hate Spotify. Hate Silicon Valley. Fuck it all, just hate everyone. But hate the artists most of all for being the origin of this disgusting industry and for producing a product who’s societal value is a tautology.
          Reply

      3. mike dean

        you are way off radio pay thousands of times more than streaming. u people are nuts
        Reply

    14. Anonymous

      FWIW, I don’t think Soundexchange admins the performance royalties on the songs. That would be ASCAP and BMI’s job would it not? And it’s the anti-trust consent decree that insures that the PROs must license the track to Pandora.

      To me, the real question in a nutshell is one somebody asked above: “[H]ow does that $4,000 compare to revenue from 168 million people hearing the same song on terrestrial radio?”

      I’m sure there are people who know the answer to this question in reasonable detail, but they are not saying it out loud. But if they were, I suspect that we’d find that 168 Million Pandora spins equals a lot less terrestrial radio spins (orders of magnitude less).

      It’s like buying a guitar on ebay for 45,738 Yen and then trying to sell it a week later and getting pissed when somebody offers you $500. You’re so attached to the big number you paid for it vis a vis the smaller number being offered that you don’t consider that the person offering $500 is actually overpaying based on the current exchange rate, where 45,738 Yen equals $400.

      Right now, most people don’t have access to the exchange rate between radio spins and Pandora streams, and those people who do have access probably don’t have a lot of incentive to educate everybody else. So they simply see these large numbers and get outraged, because back in the day, 1 million meant something in the music biz. It meant you were going to make a lot of money. In the streaming context it no longer means that. Streaming numbers, much like Yen, are a different currency than radio spins or record sales, which are more like dollars (i.e., each has more purchasing power than a single Yen).

      The real issue is that terrestrial radio is much more of a winner take all scenario. If you get in heavy rotation on terrestrial, you’re going to get a lot of spins. For example, in 2013, Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was the most played song on American terrestrial radio (at least I think it’s limited to just America). It received 749,633 plays on American terrestrial radio. Imagine how many people those spins reached? Even if each spin only reached 10,000 people on average across the US, that’s still the equivalent of 7.5 billion Pandora streams.

      But in all likelihood each spin on average reach considerably more than 10,000 people. So those 749,663 spins may well be more like the equivalent of 20 or 30 billion Pandora streams.

      Even if the listener base of terrestrial isn’t that much larger than Pandora’s listener base, Most of the terrestrial base is exposed to a much smaller range of music. So the performance royalties generated by the publishing are going to be concentrated on a more limited universe of big winners than are the performance royalties generated by Pandora.

      So even if the terrestrial performance royalty rate on the publishing is lower than Pandora’s (and I believe that it is), you’re going to make more money as a songwriter from that if you have a hit song on terrestrial. It’s like winning the Lotto. By the same token, a lot of other songwriters who might make $8 a year from Pandora, won’t every make a dime from terrestrial, even though they generated some limited spins. They are a rounding error in the statistical model that the PROs use to distribute terrestrial radio money.

      JL
      Reply

    15. Anonymous

      Let’s say that 10,000 Pandora streams equal one terrestrial spin. If the headline of this article read as follows, would anyone be outraged: “My Song Was Played 16,800 Times on Terrestrial Radio. I Received $4,000…”

      I doubt it. That’s .22 for each spin.

      Let’s get more conservative and say that 5,000 Pandora streams equal one terrestrial spin. If the headline of this article read as follows, would anyone be outraged: “My Song Was Played 33,600 Times on Terrestrial Radio. I Received $4,000…”

      Maybe some people would be outraged, but that still works out to .11 per spin. So most people wouldn’t be outraged.

      If you said, I’m outraged I got paid 45,000 Yen and all I can buy is this Mexican Telecaster, anyone with a brain would be like “Of course that’s all you can buy with that many Yen. It’s like $400.” Don’t you understand how exchange rates work?

      If DMN wanted to really help out this debate in a productive way, they try to to create a Streaming radio/terrestrial radio exchange rate, which captured the differences in their respective scope (i.e., On average Pandora = one stream to one person, whereas terrestrial = one to many thousands of people.
      Reply

    16. Blastjacket

      This continued argument is exhausting. Value of a product should be determined by the creator and then let the free market decide. Last time I checked that’s how most margins are set. the complications of the music business as it meets technology has not allowed this to happen and there are some people that are obviously being hurt by this. It’s going to take a long time to untangle and innovation in music (that’s creativity for all you techies) will suffer as a result
      Reply

    17. Johnny G

      There are too many grabbing pieces of creators music…. societies,corporations,digital distribution ……. and to add insult to injury its been reported many times they play with the figures also ….. by playing along with their game creators do not do any good to change anything …. face the music and stop dreaming , the business monopoly like their political friends use everyone as slaves for their wealth , simply stop dreaming and remove it from their dictatorship and create your website and charge a fee to access it , if you have loyal fans they will pay to hear your music
      Reply

    18. Steven

      Shouldn’t 168 Million spins at Pandora equal about $185,000 in Payment, as featured artist + label from Soundexchange?
      Reply

      1. Anonymous

        Soundexchange payments go to the person who recorded the song. That could also be the person who wrote the song. But it isn’t necessarily that person. So if you wrote a song and you did not perform on the recording as a featured artist, you will not be getting any of the $185,000 that Soundexchange received. Instead, you’ll be getting part of whatever money Pandora paid to the PRO that administers your music publishing (in the US probably Ascap or BMI).

        As others have explained, the royalties Pandora pays for the underlying composition is much smaller than the royalty it pays for the compulsory right to the sound recording.

        How that compares to payouts on other platforms (e.g., terrestrial radio) is little hard to parse for most of us, because we don’t have the information we would need to assess that well (e.g., how many people on average are touched by a terrestrial radio spin vs. a Pandora Stream).
        Reply

    19. over it

      Please, will you all just shut t f up… none of you are songwriters. You are the problem and always will be…
      Reply

      1. Anonymous

        Some of us are songwriters, but we also understand the difference between apples and oranges when somebody is making an argument that includes false equivalencies. And our ability to use our reasoning capacity doesn’t allow us to just sit by quietly when people make arguments that don’t make logical sense, even if we sympathize with where the people making those arguments are coming from.

        That’s the thing: If the argument in this article is the best argument that songwriters have, then they have already lost. It’s just not a winning argument. There are plenty of reasons why Pandora is bad and there may well be some good arguments about why the per stream royalty rate should be higher because of what Pandora does to the market for music more generally.

        But the big number-small number argument in this article is not one of those arguments. It’s some used car salesman kind of sh*t, and just a bald attempt to garner sympathy from people who don’t understand how the numbers actually work.

        Ultimately performance royalties on music publishing are based on how many people get touched by the performance. Terrestrial radio touches more people with each spin than does Pandora. So each spin is worth more, and very few songwriters get those spins. As result, the people who do get those spins tend to get an inordinate portion of the PRO money pot.

        If 186 million Pandora streams and 30,000 terrestrial spins reach the same number of people, then why should the songwriter be paid more for the Pandora spins? There might be a reasonable argument for why this should be so, but I don’t see anyone making it. Maybe that’s because there isn’t an argument to be made. But maybe it’s because so many songwriters are so busy making the weak argument in this article that they haven’t drilled down enough to find a better argument.

        Until people get real about the actual equivalencies of spins vs. streams, there can be no meaningful debate around this stuff. And nobody really wants to have that conversation. Terrestrial radio doesn’t want to have, because it would probably lead to performance right on terrestrial sound recording plays and a higher royalty rate for them on publishing performance royalties.

        Pandora doesn’t want to have this dialog either, because it would underscore just narrow its reach is for most artists and create even more hostility from the artistic community. It would also underscore, that Pandora isn’t really a very good platform for promoting music, especially if your goal is to sell a lot of copies of something.

        The info would probably undermine its ability to lobby for even lower rates.

        It may be unfair, but songwriters get very little sympathy from the public. Articles like this one are meant to garner more sympathy. But I don’t think they work very well.
        Reply

    20. huh?

      Plain and simple; don’t give them access to your music. If you are operating in the public sphere, then you must be a business man as much as a musician. Therefore, if you can’t monetize your music in fair partnership, then don’t allow them your product.

      We are living in historically important times for this issue. Now is our chance to create a strong solution. The wheel is still in spin.
      Reply

      1. Paul Resnikoff

        Under federal law, it would be extremely difficult to prevent Pandora from playing your composition(s).
        Reply

    21. Thedenmaster

      Streaming does nothing for artists. If you want to count pennies keep singing the praises of Pandora.
      If you want to lose money invest in Spotify when it goes public.
      Reply

    22. HE CO-WROTE THE SONG

      History:

      Wake me Up is written by 3 writers: Aloe Blacc, Tim Bergling, and Michael Einziger (Source ASCAP).

      Math:
      For sake of argument, let’s say the song was split in even thirds, which it probably wasn’t. This means that each writer made made $4,000. With publisher splits, that is $8,000 per writer/publisher. For 168 million spins, that is $24,000 total. Mind you this is only for Pandora. So if Aloe also got similar spins on Spotify, that would be a total of $48,000.

      Issue:
      Aloe Blacc made $4,000 because he controls 15% of the composition: Song is divided in thirds between songwriters, each songwriter splits in half with their publisher 30% of net songwriter royalties for the song. Aloe Blacc gets paid 15% of the gross songwriter royalties.

      Source:
      https://www.ascap.com/Home/ace-title-search/index.aspx
      Reply

    23. Nate

      So… you helped write a song. .. how long did that take you?… add into it recording and editing time if you must… After that, your WORK is done. .. so even if you invested a 40 hour work week into just this song $4000 works out to what an hour?… why are you still complaining?
      Reply

    24. Dan-O

      The age of hack musicians making millions off of one quickly written and produced song are over. Sweet justice. Welcome to the working world.
      Reply

    25. Johnny Boy

      Don’t be a lazy cunt this is 21st century where people get music for FREE whenever they want. .. you want cash do live performances… that is all
      Reply

    26. Anonymous

      Being a multi platinum songwriter and producer I can say.. Your publishing advance is the most you’ll see as a writer!!!! (100’s of Thousands on a song like this) but the REAL money like always is who owns the CR. which in this case is the Label… And the ARTIST that performs the song for pay gigs. Ask him how much he made in gigs?????? I bet he’ll smile when answers that!!!! My take, Next time… be the label.
      Reply

    27. Joe

      Why are all of you crying!
      Reply

    28. Dejah Fortune

      I would be upset if they werent gettin 10-100,000k per show , that said for indie artist its a lost cause. Im hoping everyone knows by now that albums are just promo to get booked for shows, which is where money is to be made
      Reply

      1. Coffee

        10k-100k a show?? Are you just making figures up??
        Promoters were trying to book an Aloe Blacc show here last winter and the going price was $5,000 USD
        Reply

    29. tupac


      Reply

    30. Tracy Barnes

      “My Song Was Played 168 Million Times on Pandora. I Received $4,000″

      As a round number let’s say your song is 4 minutes long.

      Pandora has played your 4 minute advertisement of your name and song to 168 million sets of ears. How much do you think you can buy that for? Hint: add a few zero’s to your 4k and call their advertising department.
      Reply

    31. Not to mention

      How many paid appearances and endorsement money was generated? Name one song writer that got rich even in the pre-internet days with just FM radio alone. That’s not how this works and its hard to believe Aloe is still so inexperienced. Maybe he thinks Avicii owes him some more money too from his many $150K gigs, since he got a bunch by playing that song. These articles and uninformed disillusioned songwriters are getting very tiresome.
      Reply

    32. Anonymous

      Not sure why this guy is complaining. I mean he was paid by someone for writing the music already. He doesn’t own the song, some music company does. But he still gets paid for people listening to a song. He can still be writing other songs, or be out doing live shows and still be getting paid. I mean this $4000 was from one source, what is he making from other sources that play his song? I dunno article didn’t say, but I seriously doubt this person is really hurting that bad for cash.
      Reply

    33. Blue

      From my point of view $4,000 (just from Pandora, excluding all other income from the song) for just “co-writing” a single song is pretty awesome. I think Aloe Blacc needs to chill and take a reality check. I mean, I’ve spent hours and hours trying to write a song or produce a beat, just because I enjoy the process. If he’s getting paid enough to make a living (and we all know Aloe Blacc makes much more than enough for a basic living), and people actually support and enjoy his music, he should be thankful. I think Aloe Blacc has officially reached snooty pop-star mentality. I mean really, $4,000 dollars just for co-writing one song. Even if he wrote the whole damn album $4,000 is already something any artist should be overjoyed about. I imagine anyone who thinks this payment is unfair needs to take a check on the reality of things. Most of us are stuck working hard for $8.00 an hour. If you want to argue about how much Pandora should be making in ratio to the artists, that’s fine, I personally feel successful companies should make music access more affordable for people, but of course then artists would be getting paid even less, which would still be probably still be pretty damn good pay.
      Reply

      1. Johnny

        That´s no the point, the point is, that if 168,000,000 plays, which is pretty much at the top, generates 4000 bucks, then 168,000 (a more feasible number, yet still high) will probably generate 4 bucks. That´s what most songwriters who do not write or cowrite #1 hits can expect to make. If the scaling is linear, 1 million plays could not buy you a pack of guitar strings.
        Reply

    34. Don’t forget

      Of course he doesn’t mention the money Pandora has paid him directly to perform live shows, the discovery element that spawns album purchases and everything inbetween.

      Remind me, how much did Aloe make from radio spins?
      Reply

    35. kiplin

      So basically what you guys are saying is that songwriters do not deserve to make a living off of there work? Does anyone here actually know how much money and time it cost to write a song in the first place? Let me show you.

      usually a songwriter If not sponsored by a publishing company (Which most of us are not) has to pay for his or her own recording time. we are talking some where around 50-100 dollars an hour. This is after taking two to three days to perfect a hit single. We are already at $400 once you include a price for a good engineer to mix your vocals. The time however cannot be made up.

      After the song is done the average songwriter will shop a record to artist/ labels for about a good year or two.

      After the song finally gets placed. (If it does) a writer gets no up front money! We wait for all of our funds to come in on the back end. 8-9 months, and btw this is also dependent on album sales. (which no one buys anymore due to pandora and spotify).

      the money we make from the record must now be split with who ever wrote the song/ the artist (who always want writing credit even though they wrote nothing) their manager and the A&R that placed the record.

      so lets do the math:

      400 for the song and lets assume that we give a writer minimum wage ($8 an hour)

      then 500 for the lawyer who goes over your agreement

      40 hours a week to shop your record x 2 years would be roughly 33k before taxes

      to only make 4,000 off of a song that you have invested 33k to create makes no sense. Charge more for advertising and give songwriters there damn money. We work hard for that shit.
      Reply

    36. Anonymous

      Just goes to show u….make other moves in other industries…. Music just gets u in

     

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