Pandora is stiffing artists

As a songwriter and ASCAP member, I found the recent opinion piece by Pandora’s assistant general counsel (“Why Pandora bought an FM radio station” ) to be long on rhetoric but short on facts.

Unlike Pandora, ASCAP is a nonprofit membership organization that collects and distributes royalties to the hundreds of thousands of songwriters, composers and music publishers it represents. Members like me depend on ASCAP to negotiate fair deals on our behalf, so we can earn a living as more listeners discover and enjoy our music across a wide variety of platforms, including Internet radio.

Savvy readers will note a mere four percent of Pandora’s total revenue is spent on licensing public performance rights from songwriters and composers. That means we make a fraction of a cent every time one of our songs streams on Pandora’s service — while the company's founder has cashed out more than $15 million in stock since the company went public. Yet we’re supposed to be excited that Pandora has now bought an FM radio station, because it will allow the company to pay the songwriters and composers who fuel their entire business even less than a fraction of a penny? It’s hard to follow that logic. Harder still to see how the FCC, which has to approve the sale, would find such a clearly self-serving purchase to be in the public interest.

I like streaming music online as much as the next guy. And I certainly appreciate the opportunities it creates for me as an artist to reach new listeners. But Pandora is misleading readers by claiming to be on the side of artists, when its recent actions firmly prove otherwise. Shame on us if we let them continue the charade.

Kear is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter for such artists as Lady Antebellum ("Need You Now"), Carrie Underwood ("Before He Cheats," "Blown Away"), Luke Bryan ("Drunk on You"), Darius Rucker ("True Believers") and others.