It’s no big secret that the amount of money a musician makes from their songs being streamed is pretty much next to nil (check out this graph from 2010 that illustrates how many times a song had to be streamed on Spotify for a musician to make the US minimum wage). However, artists like Pandora and Spotify are trying to get Congress to introduce the Internet Radio Fairness Act, which will mean that these streaming services will pay artists even less per stream. The idea here is that cable and satellite radio services pay far less in terms of royalties and internet radio outlets want the same treatment.
According to Variety, musicians such as Common, the Dead Kennedys, Maroon 5, and more have signed an open letter that will be published this weekend. In it, they ask, “Why is the company asking Congress once again to step in and gut the royalties that thousands of musicians rely upon? That’s not fair and that’s not how partners work together.”
In a post written on Oct. 9th, 2012, Pandora founder Tim Westergreen lauds his service for the amount that it pays to each artist, claiming that they are helping create a “…musicians middle class”. However, in the same post, Westergreen advocates for lower royalty rates. It’s a very uncertain piece, one that says, “…we’re proud to pay performance fees” yet asks people to understand why they do not want to pay those exact same fees.
Damon Krukowski (Galaxie 500, Damon & Naomi) wrote a fantastic piece on Pitchfork in which he explains the royalty rates from the perspective of a working musician. The amount of sneaky fine print that is involved in payment to musicians is astounding. For example, he writes that his band Galaxie 500 has a song entitled “Tugboat” that was played 7,800 times in one Pandora quarter. Know how much the band made from this? $.21. Each musician got seven cents. That’s it.
All three of the above linked articles are well worth reading so as to inform yourself over how music streaming is “helping” the everyday musician. But what do you think about all of this? What’s your position?