Pandora & Spotify are not the enemy

I’m a musician – full time – who strives to make more and more money from music.  That said, I’m a fan of Pandora, Spotify and of streaming music in general.  They allow me to put my music in front of people that record labels and radio stations would have never allowed me to reach.  
I think “somone” is just using the streaming companies as a scapegoat.  Hoping that we’ll be focused on them and not the major labels and radio stations who continually struggle to make money for their artists.

The biggest fallacy being pushed now are the poor major label artists who are showing that they only made 12 cents after a million plays on Pandora.  That’s really a bogus argument.  You can’t compare a million plays on Pandora to a million downloads on iTunes.  That’s apples and oranges.  To really know whether that amount is a fair payment, you have to ask “how much does an artist get paid when one million people listen to a single performance of the song on broadcast radio?”  That’s the only true comparison.

So, if a NY radio station has 100,000 people listening at any given time, then, a song would have to play 10 times in order for a million people to listen to it.  How much does that artist make from those 10 plays of their song?  That should be the question.  And you would think it’s a simple question, wouldn’t you?

Thing is, nobody’s asking that question.  No one.  Not ASCAP who seems to be more focused on killing the streaming companies than getting their artists paid.  Not Paul Resnikoff, who seems to be nothing more than a lobbyist for the major labels posing as a journalist.  And not the major label artists risking their fan bases by fighting the advancement of technology.

And why is no one asking that question?  Probably because, no one can.  For years, artists have been doing everything including selling their children for the chance to have a song played on a major radio station.  But not one of those artists can tell you how much money they make per listener.  That’s because money in radio is a big grey mystery box.  We leave it to companies like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to figure out the accounting for us.  Whatever they pay us we’re thankful for.  And since, for major label artists, we’re talking about thousands of plays multiplied by hundreds of thousands of listeners multiplied by hundreds and hundreds of radio stations – the numbers are so big that no one is questioning it.  But if you go back to basic math and reduce everything to it’s least common denominator, then the Pandora’s numbers may not be so ridiculous.  

Yeah, the Pandora check amounts are minuscule, but at least Pandora is able to say what an artist makes when someone streams their song.  I’m willing to bet, that an apples to apples radio comparison wouldn’t be much different.  That is, if anyone could ever figure out the formula in the first place.