An Artist Got 16 Bucks for a Song That Pandora Streamed a Million Times (Updated)S

A million of anything is pretty much always an insanely impossible number. Winning a million dollars, having a million Twitter followers, selling a million products—anything done a million times is something to be proud of. But maybe not getting your song streamed on Pandora a million times. All you get sometimes is 16 measly dollars. Or $16.89 to be exact.

David Lowery, songwriter and musician, had his song he wrote "Low" streamed 1,159,000 times on Pandora in the past quarter. That's a pretty huge number, right? Certainly more than the 116,260 times "Low" was streamed on Spotify or the 179 times Sirius XM played the song. The difference was Spotify paid $12.05 for the 100,000 times and Sirius paid more than a dollar per play ($181.94). So how the heck did Pandora get away with just paying 16 bucks for a million plays? It's the government's fault.

No, seriously. Congress sets the rates of which artist royalties are paid. Lowery explains:

For you civilians webcasting rates are “compulsory” rates. They are set by the government (crazy, right?). Further since they are compulsory royalties, artists can not “opt out” of a service like Pandora even if they think Pandora doesn’t pay them enough. The majority of songwriters have their rates set by the government, too, in the form of the ASCAP and BMI rate courts–a single judge gets to decide the fate of songwriters (technically not a “compulsory” but may as well be).

Pandora is barely giving anything of worth for using the songwriters and artists' music. The $16 Lowery got represented 40% ownership of the song as a songwriter (the other portion belongs to the band). He does note that being a performer of the song gives the artist a separate royalty but that even though it's a bit higher, it's also "quite lame".

So next time you like a song, maybe support the artist by streaming somewhere else. Or buying their album. Or going to their concert. Or just giving them money when you see them on the street. [The Trichordist]

A Pandora spokesperson responded to Lowery's claim saying:

“Mr. Lowery's calculations grossly understate Pandora’s payments to songwriters. In truth, Pandora paid many times more in songwriter royalties to play the song referenced in his article. The post also neglects to mention that the rates Pandora pays were set by the very organizations that represent songwriters and publishers. These organizations – BMI and ASCAP – are the very same groups that recently agreed to a long-term licensing agreement with the terrestrial radio industry to pay songwriters significantly less than Pandora.

This much is true: Pandora is by far the highest paying form of radio in the world and proudly pays both songwriters and performers. For perspective, to reach the exact same audience, Pandora currently pays over 4.5 times more in total royalties than broadcast radio for the same song. In fact, at only 7% of U.S. radio listening, Pandora pays more in performance royalties than any other form of radio.”