Artist's Expectations Need to Change, Too
I'll start with a disclaimer made many times: "I firmly believe an artist should be paid for use of their music, after the artist proves their music is worth paying for."
Said in a different way, when an artist becomes a "draw" their music has value. Until that time any media is taking a chance on suffering tune-out by playing their music.
"To build such a negative relationship with stations that distribute your music to consumers is wildly ignorant."
The following words are written in response to, what I consider, ridiculous assertions made by Cracker band member David Lowery, who complains that, as a songwriter, his pay for 1.1 million plays of the song "Low" on Pandora
is low. Mr. Lowery goes through great effort to chastise Pandora, and equal effort to assert the benefits received by his song playing on broadcast.
Unfortunately, he goes through no effort to mention the amount of exposure
received - and it's equitable value. Nor does he discuss how had Cracker not received exposure through airplay, the group would have no name recognition and his music's value would be equal to zero. Or will he answer the questions presented below - as this screen shot of his complaing shows (click to enlarge).
Let's differentiate between his call to songwriters and a call to performers. It is a huge difference. BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC make payment to composers, publishers and labels. SoundExchange makes payment of performance royalties mandated by the Copyright Royalty Board; of which 50% goes to the label, 45% to the main performer, and 5% is split between background artists and musicians.
Lowery's complaint is that, as a songwriter, he feels need to be paid much more than the $16.89 Pandora gave him for reaching those 1.1 million persons. Throughout his article, and its multitudes of comments, there's no mention of the millions of dollars Pandora has spent building an audience base for him to be exposed to.
In the area of revenue generation for Pandora, David Lowery exclaims: "Right now Pandora plays one minute of commercials an hour on their free service. Here’s an idea! Play two minutes of commercials and double your revenue!" It's as if he believes making the ad inventory available automatically means it will be sold - sorry, that's not realistic in today's audio ad market.
Back in his heyday, when "Low" was released 20 years ago, Cracker's only avenue to the public was through broadcast radio. We all remember those days when record labels were making payola payments, and artists wanted nothing more than to hear their songs over-the-air. It was a time when we heard no complaints from artists or labels about having to pay for airplay. They were glad to be heard on radio. Nor was anyone asking for confirmation on exactly how many people were hearing the music. Record sales were how everyone kept score.
Today record sales are slipping. People have adopted an attitude that music should be free ("why" is another article). And both artist and media are in a different world where expectations of the past no longer apply.
You want airplay, especially if you are an unknown artist; good luck getting onto a commercial broadcaster's playlist.
You want to play songs on your online station but may pay dearly for that "right" when you take a chance on whether a new song will be embraced by your audience. However, if you are a broadcaster, play that same song over the air and you'll not be asked for one penny in performance fees.
This is the big difference in what David Lowery is speaking of: one is the payment controlled by BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, which Lowery believes Pandora is attempting to lower by 85%; the other is a performance royalty mandate, a cost avoided in David Lowery's complaint.
Pandora is only asking for parity in the payment process.
That is, it's a request to lower the amount that Pandora is expected to pay to that which is paid by broadcasters across America.
In one passage, Mr. Lowery states: "For you civilians webcasting rates are 'compulsory' rates. They are set by the government (crazy, right?)." Yes, that's exactly what was argued in 1998, 2001, 2005, 2009, and is still being argued today with no support from broadcasters (until it became apparent they would be asked to match the amount). The problem is that if it were not set by the government, Mr. Lowery would find his music's worth close to zero today, due to the economics principle of supply and demand.
Times change, such that we do have an out-of-whack system for musicians to make money. But it's the reality of today, to be accepted or challenged - and I have no problem when it's challenged as long as the "challenge" applies equally to all music-based businesses. In Mr. Lowery's case, it does not.
What is being done by the music industry, it's affiliate organizations, the hundreds of "stars" who get regular airplay, and the manipulators of the system (persons like David Lowery) is they all neglect mentioning the tens-of-thousands of artists who will never be exposed through online airplay due to the same "supply and demand" downward pressure felt by media on ad revenue. The money isn't there. Besides, it's not the established artists' concern.
The above is the reason I created an "airplay for exposure" system to help unknown artists receive airplay through online radio.
places qualified artists in front of online radio programmers in hopes of making their way onto a playlist. There's software codework, web site placement, and email notifications that go to the artist with this system - plus additional exposure like that below and to the right - all for under $10. The best songs are selected for an "Intro to Indie Artists
" series of programs which guarantee airplay on scores of stations. Intro to Indie Artists is also available on iTunes.
Before howls of "I'm not paying" begin: 1) I make no money on this fee, it is there to keep wannabee artists out; 2) This service was free for the first 4 years, until I was bludgeoned by upwards of 400 songs per month - of which 95% were from musicians who needed much more practice to become good enough for airplay on stations.|
Gone are the days when all that was required to sell music was a little payola
so your song got on a broadcast station.
Gone are days when the only way for consumers to own your music was
through purchasing it at a local record store.
Gone are days when artists, like David Lowery, remain silent about reaching
a point where they were the lucky one who received support.
In my opinion, artists who are a draw should be paid through a formula taking into account the degree of audience from which they have a positive response.
But we are a long way from that.
Today's music distribution is so different from when "Low" was released that it's not about receiving money for each "spin" of a song. It's about the artist finding multiple revenue streams through exposure of their music.
Artists need to change expectations, just like some of them expect radio to change.
Pandora only seeks parity with what broadcasters pay. It's not a lowering of the amount it's willing to pay artists, but a respectful request that Pandora (and other webcasters) be charged what broadcast, cable, and satellite companies who make money from playing an artist's song pay.
The payment is not much, agreed. But times have changed so dramatically that it's what artists and stations have to work with. Each depends on the other, so these acrimonious demands should be shelved in exchange for compromise.
To build such a negative relationship with stations that distribute your music to consumers is wildly ignorant.
1.1 million plays on Pandora - or 600 plays on a small radio station - means the artist has been exposed to people that advertisers pay to reach. (Read "The Math of Music."
As for David Lowery's claim "Terrestrial (FM/AM) radio US paid me $1,522.00" - there's no corresponding number of people reached so this figure is moot, and is probably much less than the per-spin amount paid by Pandora, if it were possible to calculate.
Perhaps Mr. Lowery should be paying Pandora? At a CPM (cost-per-thousands) of a meager $2, he'd only owe the company $2,200. But "Cracker" would be getting exposure that tens-of-thousands of unknown artists would love to receive.
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Today's indie artist introduction to internet radio is...
We listen for songs that evoke emotion; fast, slow, female, male, group, it doesn't matter. When an artist has the power to please, they should be given a chance to be heard.
Give Kenny Wesley "I'm Sorry"
Add it to your station playlist, free!
Such is the new world of music distribution.
It's time internet radio programmers reach into a huge pile of untapped talent.
It is here where new hit songs will increasingly be found.