Pink Floyd Editorial Takes Aim at Pandora’s Move to Cut Royalty Payments [Updated]

By Cameron Scott 

Members of the legendary rock band Pink Floyd published an editorial today in USA Today that criticizes Pandora’s efforts to enact legislation that would reduce the royalty payments it and other Internet radio stations must pay to artists and record labels.

“A business that exists to deliver music can’t really complain that its biggest cost is music. You don’t hear grocery stores complain they have to pay for the food they sell. Netflix pays more for movies than Pandora pays for music, but they aren’t running to Congress for a bailout. Everyone deserves the right to be paid a fair market rate for their work, regardless of what their work entails,” wrote Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason.

The editorial comes in response to a petition Pandora has asked artists to sign in favor of Internet radio. Existing laws require Internet radio services to pay royalties to artists when their songs are played, though AM/FM radio stations do not. Pandora has argued that the discrepancy hinders its ability to compete, and its royalty payments should therefore be diminished.

The rockers called a letter Pandora is circulating deceptive because it avoids any reference to the fact that it will be used to support the company’s lobbying efforts to reduce its royalty obligations. The company spent $220,000 on lobbying in 2012.

“A musician could read this ‘letter of support’ a dozen times and hold it up to a funhouse mirror for good measure without realizing she was signing a call to cut her own royalties to pad Pandora’s bottom line,” the members of Pink Floyd wrote.

Pandora did not immediately respond to a request for comment. UPDATE: See statement below.

“We’re not saying that the music business is perfect or that there is no room to compromise. Artists would gladly work with Pandora to end AM/FM’s radio exemption from paying any musician royalties – a loophole that hurts artists and digital radio alike,” wrote Waters, Gilmour and Mason.

Update: On June 26, we received the statement below from Pandora:

We have enormous respect for the members of Pink Floyd, and their amazing artistic contributions. We also respect the genuineness of their opinion. Unfortunately, they have been given badly misleading information – the result of a well-orchestrated campaign by the RIAA and their lobbying arm to mislead and agitate artists. A glaring example is the assertion that Pandora supports an “85% artist pay cut.” That is simply not true. We never, nor would we ever, support such a thing. In fact, Pandora has suggested solutions that would guarantee no reduction in artist payouts while also nurturing the growth of internet radio — a medium that is crucial to thousands of independent musicians who don’t enjoy major label support or FM radio exposure.

This much is true: Pandora is by far the highest paying form of radio in the world and proudly pays both songwriters and performers. For perspective, to reach the exact same audience, Pandora currently pays over 4.5 times more in total royalties than broadcast radio for the same song.  In fact, at only 7% of U.S. radio listening, Pandora pays more in performance royalties than any other form of radio.