David Lowery's Pandora Fight Continues: "Does Silicon Valley Need A Bailout?"

David Lowery
Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker frontman David Lowery is royally pissed. Make that royalty pissed for the lack of compensation he's received for the use of his songs on online webcasts, most notably Pandora.

On June 23, The Trichordist, a website for artists for an ethical and sustainable Internet, ran a submission from Lowery titled "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!" Lowery included images of his quarterly royalty statement and aired his thoughts on webcaster abuse of music artists.

Lowery's main intent was to highlight how little he was receiving for his songs. He sites Cracker's biggest hit, "Low" from 1993's Kerosene Hat, as the biggest injustice in a seriously flawed system already designed to exploit musicians. "Low" was played 1,159,000 times on Pandora and the royalty payment was a mere $16.89.

Recently Lowery, who's playing Crescent Ballroom on July 21, sat down for a wide-ranging conversation with us. When things turned to Pandora, he had a lot to say -- as you might expect.

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(For sake of comparison, Lowery received only one-fourth less pay -- $12.05 -- for one-tenth the plays -- 152,900 -- on Spotify. Still pitiful, but not as horrendous as Pandora, which earns the most ire from Lowery.)

For the record, Lowery is a 40 percent owner of "Low," a track he co-wrote with Cracker bandmates Johnny Hickman and Davey Faragher. The total payout on the song from Pandora for 1,159,000 plays was a thieving $42.23 -- about four-thousandths of a cent per play.

Lowery sees Congress as much to blame as Pandora itself. It's the lawmakers, Lowery explains, that set the rates of royalty for artists -- not the record companies, not the musicians, not the even the songwriters whose hard work and effort created the song. And, says Lowery, Pandora is currently lobbying Congress to reintroduce the ironically dubbed "Internet radio fairness act," to lower that royalty rate further, by as much as 85 percent according to Lowery's June 24 reply to a Trichordist reader's comment.

In a recent interview with Lowery about Camper Van Beethoven celebrating its 30th anniversary with a tour that brings the band and Cracker to the Crescent Ballroom on July 21, I saved my questions about the current Pandora melee for the end. I only needed to say the word Pandora before Lowery's temperature boiled.

New Times: I want to ask about the Pandora uproar. Has there been much backlash or more of a positive response?

David Lowery: We're getting a positive response and moving the ball forward. It's out there now. It is what it is.

But here's the way to look at it: Why does the government set the prices that webcasters pay? Silicon Valley is the most vital and profitable segment of society, so why is the fucking government even fucking meddling in the marketplace? Are [webcasters] struggling? Do they need a bailout like the car companies in 2008? That's the first thing.

The second is, why the hell is Pandora and webcasters proposing a bill in Congress that would force copyright royalty judges to calculate our rate lower? It's not like World War II, where we have to ration sugar, chocolate, and gas. Can't songwriters and record labels say to Pandora: "Hey, we don't think you're giving us a good price and we're just going to drop out?" No! You can't drop out of these services.

They are compulsory. What is the government doing, in this day and age, setting prices? Why the fuck is Pandora lobbying on Capitol Hill to lower the prices? Why are they so afraid of this?

Location Info

Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music


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25 comments
kaysonj
kaysonj

@thedude Please throw yourself into the street while you are at it.

thedude
thedude

David Lowry is a lying tool who is really carrying water for the RIAA.

It is disgraceful that the industry media hasn't called him out on his propaganda misinformation campaign.


I just threw my Cracker discs on the street.

marcy
marcy

For the side of the story Mr Lowery doesn't care to hear:

http://theunderstatement.com/post/53867665082/pandora-pays-far-more-than-16-dollars

Bottom line, Pandora pays HIGHER royalty rates, totaling $97 in this case, to songwriters than AM/FM stations and AM/FM stations pay NOTHING in performance royalties while Pandora paid $1274.00 in performance royalties for that song.

$1370 in total payments, but Lowery wants to pretend they only paid a pittance of $16.89

In the future, don't compare royalties paid by ONE internet streaming company with the total of ALL AM/FM radio stations in the US or with the MUCH MUCH larger XM satellite system.  That's like some produce company whining that the corner produce stand didn't pay them as much as all the commercial grocers in the US paid them.


kaysonj
kaysonj

Good to see some Pandora employees chiming in on this article.

marcy
marcy

@kaysonj 

Paranoid much?

Since there are only two posters who have disagreed with Lowery and I am one of them, your statement that there are multiple Pandora employees chiming in is simply false.  I use Pandora on occasion, I also listen to the radio on occasion but I'm not an employee of Pandora.

Attempting to avoid a discussion by labeling people who disagree with you as shills suggests you don't have a supportable position.

kaysonj
kaysonj

@marcy  It's called sarcasm. Please explain to me how getting over a million listens should = $14. If you truly care about artists and support music there is no logical way a person can support that business model. I have worked in the industry in various capacities and have a pretty good idea of how most people find and consume music. Pandora does not exactly = itunes sales. I'd love to hear your "supportable position". I can only assume you are either a troll, or quite clueless to the realities that face the average working musician.

logicman
logicman

@kaysonj @marcy uh, how about a million people being exposed to his music?  How about no Pandora at all, then no one has ever heard of this guy.  Free marketing for this guy from Pandora could create a ton of money for him.  

marcy
marcy

@kaysonj @marcy 

You tell me how much he gets if a million people listen to his song on the radio.

I'm quite aware that becoming a musician is a losing proposition for 99% of the people who try it.  Perhaps it is Mr Lowery and yourself who are clueless to the reality that making music is a lousy way to make a living.  That hasn't changed since the dawn of time.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

Not knowing much about the music business, I'm curious as to how much he makes when a song like Low is played on regular radio station as a comparison.

marcy
marcy
JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter like.author.displayName 1 Like

That's not accurate.  I know enough about it to know that performance royalties must be paid to the songwriters and publishers for any public performance of a song, whether it is on radio, TV, a stadium during a sporting event, etc.  Even a summer camp has to by a license and pay royalties for singing songs around the campfire.  But I don't know the amount of the royalty that gets paid.  For instance, how much does he get paid if the song is played once by a radio station with 1,159,000 listeners - is it equivalent?  That is what I'm curious about.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

Thanks. Do you know the per-spin royalty rate that he receives as the songwriter when Low is played on a radio station? Is it different by station/market or is it uniform throughout the US? What I'm curious about is how much he would receive as the songwriter (Marcy - just the songwriting royalties for the Muscial Composition) when Low is played 11 times on a radio station with 100,000 listeners (1.1 million total exposures) which would be the equivalent number of exposures he had on Pandora? Are they equivalent or is on higher or lower than the other (Marcy - again, just the songwriter royalties for the Muscial Composition).

kaysonj
kaysonj

@JohnQ.Public  You are 100% correct. Watching Marcy back peddle is amazing entertainment.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

Actually, Marcy, you're wrong. I tried to be polite, but you were rude. You are wrong in your definition of performance royalty. A performance royalty is defined as the royalty paid for the public performance of a Musical Composition and is owed to the songwriter and publisher of that Musical Composition. The Musical Composition is the type of copyright issued for the creation of the music and lyrics (on paper, if you will).As the songwriter, Lowery receives a performance royalty for the public performance of the Musical Composition of Low on the radio, so he does receive a royalty for the playing of his song on the radio as the songwriter.What you are referring to is that he doesn’t receive a royalty of the Sound Recording of Low, which is the recording of him actually playing and singing the Musical Composition, but that is a different type of copyright. 

You didn't even read your own quote properly.  The quote says that AM and FM stations don't pay "performers' royalties."  It doesn't say that they don't pay "performance royalties."  Performance royalties is a term of art that apparently you don't know the definition of.

I'd ask my question again, but apparently you're not equiped to answer it.

marcy
marcy

@JohnQ.Public

You would be wrong.  Radio stations pay NOTHING to musicians to play their songs on the radio.  TV and summer camps aren't radio stations. 

You are curious and I answered your question, zero.  So you repeat your question.  The answer is still zero.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=6952903&page=1#.Ud5_oEG1GSo

"AM and FM radio stations do not pay performers' royalties, just songwriters."

If Mr Lowery wrote a song he could get royalties no matter who was singing it on the radio.  He gets zip if he didn't write it when it is played on the radio.





kaysonj
kaysonj

Mr. Lowery is my hero for speaking out and standing up to Pandora. It's hard enough to survive as an artist without the mega corporations taking every last nickel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p29OX-l2dvI

marcy
marcy

@kaysonj 

Feel free to stream your own songs and charge for them.  Good luck and get back to us soon on the results.

logicman
logicman

@kaysonj How many records/ iTunes downloads did he get because of Pandora?  Pandora is today's radio and should be treated that way.  

marcy
marcy

@logicman @kaysonj 

Exactly right.

Radio stations pay nothing when they "stream" music to millions of listeners.  

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

You don't have very strong reading comprehension skills, do you?  I've asked twice now - how much does he get paid in royalties as the songwriter when his song is played on terrestrial radio.  Not once have I asked about how much he does or does not get paid as a performer. 

kaysonj
kaysonj

@marcy You sound like one of the most bitter people on the planet. I have forgotten more than you will ever know about being an artist and working in the industry. Most artists know that they arent going to make any money from their art, they do it because they love it. The labels and promoters have know this which is exactly why the artist has been taken advantage of since day one. As an artist I will NEVER side with those that take advantage of someone else's original works. You say " Piddly" audience size? When is the last time something you created got a million plus listens? How about Linda Perry who had her song "Beautiful" played over 48 Million times last year on Pandora? She was paid $1400.00 for 48,000,000 plays!  It;s not about being owed a living its about being paid for your work.

marcy
marcy

@JohnQ.Public 

No they don't.  They have a completely different royalty rate from radio stations and in fact their attempt to pay lower rates stems from them wanting to pay SIMILAR rates to AM/FM stations.

The royalty rate paid to performers on AM/FM stations is zero.  Songwriters get paid, performers do not.

marcy
marcy

@kaysonj @JohnQ.Public 

He gets paid as a song WRITER, not as a performer, on AM/FM.  He gets NOTHING for performing the song.

He is comparing 1M people streaming a song on Pandora with his song being played to 100's of times that many people on AM/FM and satellite radio. 

He's got a couple of problems:

1) He can't add

2) He mistakenly believes Pandora owes him a living for his piddly audience size.

kaysonj
kaysonj like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JohnQ.Public John you are correct.If you read the original article Lowery wrote he lists terrestrial and Satellite radio pay outs. Marcy is a clown and has no idea what s/he is talking about.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

Again, don't believe that is accurate - radio stations have to pay for streamed music the same way that Pandora does.

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