Pandora founder Tim Westergren has hit back at criticism of his company’s payouts to artists. In a blog post, he claims that over the next year, Pandora will pay more than $10k each to more than 2,000 artists, and more than $50k each to over 800 artists.
“For top earners like Coldplay, Adele, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Aldean and others Pandora is already paying over $1 million each. Drake and Lil Wayne are fast approaching a $3 million annual rate each,” writes Westergren.
“It’s hard to look at these numbers and not see that internet radio presents an incredible opportunity to build a better future for artists. Not only is it bringing tens of millions of listeners back to music, across hundreds of genres, but it is also enabling musicians to earn a living.”
Of course, these numbers don’t tell the whole story: they cover payouts for artist plays on Pandora before the cuts taken by SoundExchange and labels.
By quoting exact numbers for specific artists – “Iron & Wine ($173,152), Bon Iver ($135,223)…” – Westergren may be encouraging artists to ask more questions about the cuts taken by those middlemen before the money flows into their bank accounts.
Another motivation for revealing the figures is made clear in the post: lobbying for lower royalty rates. “A predatory licensing fee orchestrated over ten years ago by the RIAA and their lobbyists in Washington has devastated internet radio,” claims Westergren, citing the pullouts of AOL, Yahoo! LaunchCast and MSN.
“This is not a recipe for a sustainable industry. It is a destructive stranglehold that is putting at risk a much larger reward for musicians everywhere.”
Westergren may be on thin ice, though, boasting about Pandora’s payouts in the same blog post as demanding lower royalty rates. As one commenter on the post notes: “Did I understand your message? In one sentence you’re touting how much you’re paying artists and in the next you’re saying you want to pay them less?”