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