Streaming For Profits – Online Radio and Royalties

Interesting post from David Lowery from the band Cracker, showing the dirty details of what artists make in royalties these days.

My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89, Less Than What I Make From a Single T-Shirt Sale! | The Trichordist.

Still a relatively popular outfit with some good songs in the back-catalog, Lowery shows how 1 million plays of a Cracker song on a service like Pandora trickles back down to him and the other songwriters and stake holders. He also shows how this royalty payment compares to services like XM/Sirius (satellite) radio and AM/FM (terrestrial) radio.

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Besides interesting behind the scenes stuff, why is this news now? Because the internet radio services are lobbying congress to reduce their royalty rates even further. I, of course, am against this, and most artists are starting to see the ridiculousness of this proposal.

Pandora in particular does not allow indie artists in their catalog and they don’t do much to promote that artist outside of pandora (they could push merch, tour dates, tweets, links). The other services like Rdio, last.fm, Spotify, Jango, etc. provide various levels of this, but all want their royalty rates to the actual artists reduced.

They all want to offer commercial-free listening but no one wants to pay the artists. If you want your music commercial-free then buy it outright! The radio services tell you ‘log in with facebook’ to avoid commercials. This is so they can charge more for targeted ads based on your facebook profile. There’s plenty of methods to change their business model into a sustaining business, but cutting more money out from the artists is not the way to go.

I feel that the general belief that information should be free for the public good has hurt professional musicians. “Content” ranges from corporate drivel to high-art, and currently there is one pay scale for both online.

If you stream music all day know that this isn’t helping the artists very much. If you like them, post them to blogs, tell facebook about them, buy a t-shirt from their website, go to a show, etc, then you are supporting them. If you call your local radio station and make requests for them, then you are supporting them. If you put their sticker on your car or guitar case you are supporting them.

Streaming from youtube all day does nothing to support them. Streaming from legitimate audio services pays a small royalty now and wants to make it smaller. It’s interesting that the dinosaur of FM radio pays more in royalties than streaming radio, and they are guessing as to how many people heard the song.