After lobbying Congress to cut the royalty rates it has to pay artists, Pandora's attempts to make amends with artists appear to be backfiring. The Oakland-based internet radio company's most recent enemies? Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason, the three remaining members of Pink Floyd.
More than 130 artists, including Pink Floyd, united to oppose Pandora's bill, which did not move past the committee stage. Now, Pandora founder Tim Westergren is apparently trying to damage control by sending emails to musicians asking them to "be part of a conversation" and sign a "letter of support" for Internet radio. Pink Floyd fired back with an op-ed in USA Today, which argues that Pandora is "trying to trick artists" into supporting a pay cut.
"Fine print is one thing," the Pink Floyd op-ed states. "But a musician could read this 'letter of support' a dozen times and hold it up to a funhouse mirror for good measure without realizing she was signing a call to cut her own royalties to pad Pandora's bottom line."
The op-ed also cites some stats, which Pandora refutes:
"Nearly 90% of the artists who get a check for digital play receive less than $5,000 a year. They cannot afford the 85% pay cut Pandora asked Congress to impose on the music community."
A Pandora spokesperson responded with this statement:
“We have enormous respect for the members of Pink Floyd...unfortunately, they have been given badly misleading information — the result of a well-orchestrated campaign by the RIAA and their lobbying arm to mislead and agitate artists. A glaring example is the assertion that Pandora supports an '85% artist pay cut.' That is simply not true. We never, nor would we ever, support such a thing." And later: "Pandora currently pays over 4.5 times more in total royalties than broadcast radio for the same song."
To highlight that broadcast radio stations pay lower royalties than online streaming services, Pandora recently bought a South Dakota radio station. BMI, which collects license fees for artists, immediately filed a lawsuit that stated: "Pandora's stunt makes a mockery of the performing rights licenses and the rate court process."