3.1 Million Plays on Pandora Nets Royalties of $39

I’m a big fan of streaming music services.  We’re on the road to a world where access to music will always trump possession.  Consumers are loving streaming options more and more each day.

The same thing can’t be said for artists and songwriters, though.  And who can blame them?  There doesn’t seem to be any money to be made from allowing your music to be streamed through services like Spotify, Rdio and Pandora.  Check out this post on Digital Music News from Ellen Shipley, a Grammy-nominated songwiter.

It is interesting and very disturbing that no one is addressing the SONGWRITER’s situation in this Pandora debacle.

Pandora wishes to REDUCE the amount of royalties that songwriters have already seen CUT in 2005. Let me give you an example of what Pandora is paying in royalties to SONGWRITERS–not the performers, but the people who write the songs–the foundation of the music world—

PANDORA —-“Heaven Is A Place On Earth” (co-written)

accounting period for 3 months—–3,112,300 streams

My Pandora royalty ……………..$39.61

AND they want us to take an EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT CUT!!!

Does that give you an understanding of the meager, insulting, outrageous amount of money songwriters are being paid from PANDORA and SPOTIFY and YOUTUBE and GOOGLE (I received 15 cents from GOOGLE the other day)?

Read more.  Once you’ve digested everything, consider this response for Audio4Cast.  This issue isn’t so much with Pandora as it is with record companies and an organization called SoundExchange.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

4 thoughts on “3.1 Million Plays on Pandora Nets Royalties of $39

  • November 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I am unfamiliar with the business model here but does the label come into play on this? Are they charging Pandora and others unworldly amounts to allow them to stream?

  • November 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm


    If believe Pandora's CEO, they are being charged much more than Sirus XM for the same type of royalty. I, for one, do believe him because he's been open about how difficult it has been to get Pandora profitable because of the music royalty system. Ellen Shipley's cut from these various streaming sources is also due to her deal with her record label which she fails to address. She also doesn't mention an even more paltry amount from Sirius radio, does she? It's easy to blame the new technology (the record labels obviously don't want their $20 CD model to ever go away) but many artists are just not compensated the same for digital distribution and the blame for the lack of reward is back to the record label.

  • November 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I read the source article last week and a commenter made an interesting point. The 3.1 million plays is misleading, but rather it should be interpreted as 3.1 million listens. How does this scenario compare with terrestrial radio? If the song was played on On Air With Ryan Seacrest, I imagine that 3.1 million listens could be measured rather quickly, with relatively few plays. What would Ellen Shipley's share be for those plays? I understand the mechanics are different – Pandora still launched the song that many unique times, however it's still a passive experience to the audience. Few listeners actually queued up the song on their Pandora stream, but rather the song got included in their playlist.

    I agree that the songwriters are getting the short end of the stick, but I don't think that this is the argument that is going to win the debate for them. How does it compare to the payments made for terrestrial radio plays? I really don't know, and I think that's the argument that needs to be considered.

  • November 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Seems like this could be a PRO issue with songwriters, not a Pandora issue:

    "The most important fact is that Pandora does not pay songwriters at all!

    But, Pandora does pay for the performance of songs that its listeners stream, it just doesn't pay the songwriters directly. Rather, Pandora pays ASCAP, BMI and SESAC (the performance rights organizations, or PROs), whose job it is to turn around and pay their publisher and songwriter members their fair share of the money.

    Shipley is a member of BMI, and the song is registered there as well as ASCAP because her co-writer, Richard Nowels, registered his share of the song at ASCAP. Apparently, the check for $39 payable to Ms. Shipley came from BMI."

    Full article via Digital Music News: Fact: Pandora Doesn't Pay Songwriters, They Pay PROs…


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