Pandora boss reveals some figures

By | Published on Thursday 11 October 2012


Possibly feeling that his company has been tarnished a little by the “streaming services underpay artists” mantra that is wheeled out every few weeks these days, the boss of US-based interactive radio service Pandora, Tim Westergren, has made some claims about how much certain artists are earning from their play on his service.

Says Westergren: “For over two thousand artists Pandora will pay over $10,000 dollars each over the next twelve months (including one of my favourites, the late jazz pianist Oscar Peterson), and for more than 800 we’ll pay over $50,000, more than the income of the average American household. For top earners like Coldplay, Adele, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Aldean and others Pandora is already paying over $1 million each. [And] Drake and Lil Wayne are fast approaching a $3 million annual rate each”.

That’s presumably what is being paid to each artists’ respective labels and publishers, and the acts themselves will likely be receiving quite a bit less, depending on their contracts and past earnings. But still, it’s further proof that the streaming sector is paying ever bigger sums of money into the music business, and Westergren seems keen to tell us all that his company in particular is very much pro-artist.

Of course it’s assumed bigger artists and rights owners are benefiting most from services like Spotify, because the major labels have almost certainly secured better deals than the little guys (which is why they never join in with the “streamers underpay” ranting), though as Pandora licences all of its rights via collective licensing organisations rather than labels and publishers direct, presumably the monies are distributed in a fairer fashion to those artists whose music is played. So, well done Tim.

Though, that said, while the Pandora chief was keen to be seen as an artist champion this week, he was also calling for his licensing costs to be lowered. As an online radio service Pandora has to pay royalties to both music publishers and record labels (the latter via SoundExchange), whereas FM radio services in the States only have to pay the former under the current copyright system.

Added Westergren: “It’s hard to look at these numbers and not see that internet radio presents an incredible opportunity to build a better future for artists. Not only is it bringing tens of millions of listeners back to music, across hundreds of genres, but it is also enabling musicians to earn a living. [But] since Pandora accounts for just 6.53% of all radio listening in the US, it seems fundamentally unfair that other forms of radio that represent much larger shares of US radio listening pay substantially less to artists”.