Today In Chutzpah: Web Music Advocate Insists High Royalties Hurt Musicians

11.29.12 5 years ago 9 Comments

As we’ve previously told you, Pandora would like to pay less in music royalties, while the music industry would rather radio paid as much as Pandora. Currently, there’s testimony in Congress over this, and David Pakman made it clear just who’s getting the shaft, either way. While under oath, Pakman, the former head of eMusic, had this to say:

Pakman suggested that the lack of profits at digital services harms music artists as the transition to Internet delivery continues, and he laid the blame directly at the feet of the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group that represents the three largest recording companies.

“A healthy future for the recorded music business,” Pakman continued, “demands an ecosystem of hundreds or even thousands of successful music licensees, prospering by delivering innovative music services to the global Internet. Yet the actions of the RIAA seem counter to this very goal. They have appeared on the opposite side of every issue facing digital music innovators, opposed to sensible licensing rates meant to achieve a healthy market.”

Amazingly, Pakman actually said this with a straight face, which is impressive considering he literally just argued that it’s good for musicians to eat a decrease in royalties that may be as high as 85% according to some estimates. We’re no fans of the RIAA around here, and Pakman is right in that they are fighting inevitable technological change tooth and nail, but it is a little exhausting that both sides are pretending to be friends to musicians.

It’s true that services like Pandora are not profitable, but it’s decidedly not because of the royalties they pay. Galaxie 500 frontman Damon Krukowski recently broke down that Pandora’s enormous, soul-crushing rates mean that, for a song streamed 7800 times in three months, he made the princely sum of…

Seven freaking cents.

Granted, the labels are no better: Too Much Joy’s frontman once broke out the convoluted and ridiculous measures a label will try to avoid admitting they owe somebody, anybody, money. And he only got the details he got because he worked at Rhapsody.

Pandora wants access to the same rates radio stations get, which isn’t entirely unreasonable, but both sides need to stop pretending they have the interests of the artist in mind.

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