At the SF Music Tech conference today, Pandora founder Tim Westergren shared some numbers with attendees shortly before a post appeared on the company’s blog that might surprise the “free music doesn’t pay” contingent.
Here are some of Pandora’s annual payouts to artists (and their associated rightsholders such as labels and publishers), which the company says it is on track to pay over the next 12 months, except where noted. You have not heard of some of these people:
- Drake and Lil Wayne: approaching $3 million annually
- Coldplay, Adele, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Aldean and “other top earners”: already paid over $1 million annually
- French Montana: $138,567
- Grupo Bryndis: $114,192
- Donnie McClurkin: $100,228
- Over 800 artists: more than $50K
- Over 2,000 artists: more than $10K
In addition, a small-ish artist beloved by Pitchfork etc. recently told me he earns more than $1K from SoundExchange (that’s Pandora and all the other radio streamers, plus satellite and cable radio) each year.
SoundExchange collects this cash, then disburses it to copyright holders who have registered there. To be fair, artists get precisely the same rates from Pandora as they do from any other internet radio service that pays the government-mandated royalties for a non-interactive webcast (“non-interactive” being a fairly loose term here, as the license allows up to six skips per hour, song ratings to shape stations, and other interactive elements).
Pandora is the biggest radio streamer in the world’s most lucrative music market, the U.S., and as such, it is paying artists more than any streaming radio service, which does allow certain bragging rights.
However, Pandora’s in a tricky situation here, because as it rightly points our how much it pays artists, it’s simultaneously trying to make the case that it should pay a lower rate, or at least that terrestrial and satellite radio should pay comparable rates — an argument that has some merit. As its blog post pointed out, “the original three largest webcasters (AOL, Yahoo! LaunchCast and MSN) fled the business after the last rate hike was imposed. 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.”