Home > Uncategorized > Arithmetic on the Internet: Incumbent “Million-a-Month” Tim Westergren Plays his Thimblerig

Arithmetic on the Internet: Incumbent “Million-a-Month” Tim Westergren Plays his Thimblerig

June 27, 2013

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
Strike hard who cares–shoot straight who can–
The odds are on the cheaper man.

Arithmetic on the Frontier, by Rudyard Kipling

I don’t know how much Pandora’s stockholders are paying for the company’s latest PR campaign to prove that the Sun really does rise in the West, but after watching David Lowery on CNBC yesterday, I’d say that it’s a waste of money.

But the real slight of hand was in Tim Westergren’s blog post which quoted some utter drivel–pitiable, actually.

Here’s the basic rundown–in order to get away from the abysmal numbers that Pandora pays songwriters Pandora has to include the royalty they pay to artists–who coincidentally happen to be artists in the case of David Lowery and his co-writing band.  Of course–Lowery was talking about just the songwriters, but don’t let that stop anyone.  (Remember–two copyrights in each sound recording, the song and the recording of the song.  Songs and recordings can be, and usually are, created and/or owned by different people.  Pandora gets a blanket license for songs and a separate and substantively different compulsory license for sound recordings.  Songwriters can opt out of blanket licenses because it’s a contract that permits opting out, artists cannot opt out of a statutory compulsory license that is a law that does not permit opting out.)

That’s really all there is to it–I wish it were something more sophisticated, but that’s essentially what Tim Westergren is saying–wrapped in a lot of San Francisco-style sensitivity about “I know what it’s like to be a musician”.  Why doesn’t he just say it–“I love you, man!’

In case you haven’t heard, Tim Westergren is personally taking down $1,000,000 a month from selling his stock in Pandora.  Every time he can get that stock price up, it’s more money for his monthly allowance.  I’m happy for his wealth, that’s capitalism at work.  But don’t turn around and say he tours a mile in the shoes of a working artist because that is just pure unadulterated BS.

The point that Lowery was making on CNBC is a point about songwriters–people who just write songs and are not also recording artists.  So Westergren’s response was to pretend David was talking about something else–artists who write some of their own songs. I have an apple–well, let me tell you about why you’re wrong about oranges.

Why?  Probably because Westergren has not so good memories of the songwriters who performed last November on Capitol Hill before the IP Subcommittee’s hearing on the Internet Radio Fairness Act that boomeranged on Pandora.  The writers were Lee Miller performing his song “You’re Gonna Miss This” (as recorded by Trace Adkins), Kara DioGuardi performing ”Sober” (as recorded by Pink), BC Jean performing “If I Were a Boy” (as recorded by Beyoncé), Desmond Child performing his song “Livin’ on a Prayer” (as recorded by Bon Jovi), and Linda Perry performing her song “Beautiful” (as recorded by Christina Aguilera).

The combined Pandora earnings for these songwriters in the first quarter of 2012 was $587.39.  For over 33 million combined spins.  Apples to apples.  In other words–they were making essentially the same point as David Lowery.  These were songwriters, not artists, so no amount of thimblerig by Tim Westergren will change that.  See a trend here?

But the most absurd part of Tim’s “let’s pretend” blog post was the bit about how a spin on Pandora reaches a bigger audience than a spin anywhere else so it is actually more valuable to artists (not to songwriters who just write songs, though, although–it’s kind of hard to tell).  I have to admit I kind of lost the page in all these analogies.  But let’s get something clear about that.  You know what else is more valuable?  A three legged bear standing on his nose in Times Square on a Tuesday is nowhere near the value of a pot bellied pig doing jumping jacks on a Wednesday while wearing a pink tutu and blowing sunshine out of his ass in the middle of Piccadilly.  (And it’s not true that they got thrown out of Sean Parker’s wedding with the satyr they rode in on.)

Here’s a point that Tim didn’t mention:  The benefit to Pandora of being able to play a song that was a hit 20 years ago but still generates millions of plays.  Who’s benefiting whom here?

Tim reminded us that Pandora has been around for 13 years–I’d forgotten that.  That may explain why they are the incumbent resisting creative disruption and also explains why they are resisting getting off the crack pipe of deeply discounted royalty rates that artists and songwriters agreed to give them to help them get started, thus proving again that no good deed goes unpunished.

Pandora is a public company now and the insiders are making serious bank.

They’re big boys now, time to pay the adult fare to ride the train.

This is just about money, folks.  They got a break until they got on their feet.  They’re on their feet.  No more breaks.

And they’d rather spend the money to buy radio stations, litigate and lobby than pay it to the people who create the music.

  1. June 27, 2013 at 12:25

    personally, I can not, at the moment, see the POINT of putting my stuff up on Pandora… it is truly saddening to see this situation … however, it is a very old story, repeated many times… and the ending of this story, as you well know, is frequently not a happy one.

  2. adamsmith2009
    June 27, 2013 at 18:42

    I will NEVER….

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