AVOID EXCUSES LIKE THE PLAGUE.
The Wall Street Journal reports Pandora’s side of Pandora’s latest artist relations debacle:
Pandora is confident in its legal position, said Pandora’s public affairs director, Dave Grimaldi, and is open to supporting federal legislation that would require all music services to pay performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings.
Here’s the ambiguity: “…federal legislation that would require all music services to pay performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings…” This depends on what the mean of “all” is.
First of all, Pandora doesn’t get to decide when they get to follow the law. If this is Pandora’s best argument for stiffing legacy artists, then why are they paying royalties to anyone at all? The law only requires digital music services to pay performances for sound recordings, not all music services.
So what is the deeply experienced Washington lobby boy Grimaldi actually saying? Pandora wants to be treated the same as “all music services” when paying all royalties? Or just all pre-72 royalties? Why is that? Because most of the pre-72 artists are older, broke, infirm or dead and can only fight back if those they inspired fight for them?
What Grimaldi clearly is trying to do is the typical lobby boy tactic: Deflect, dissemble, and hide behind a falsehood to try to excuse inexcusable conduct.
His problem is that when you start out with utter bullshit, all you do when you spin it is end up with spun bullshit. It’s still bullshit and it still comes from a bullshitter. And in Pandora’s case, from a long line of bullshitters.
But here is where the alliance of Pandora and the National Association of Broadcasters is getting writ large. Who would be included in the “all”? Terrestrial radio. This is like saying if you change the law to include a requirement that broadcast radio has to pay record royalties (which is what the #irespctmusic campaign is all about), only then will Pandora pay on pre-72 recordings. And by the way–then they’ll want to pay the same rate as broadcast radio.
Remember–Pandora’s public stock filings put itself in the same business category as broadcast radio even though they clearly are not. Pandora executives chant “Pandora is Radio” like a mantra. The fact is that Pandora is NOT “radio”, another lie. But those who lie have a selfish angle for that lie, and in business the lies usually come down to money.
The WSJ goes on:
Current federal law has never required terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay performance royalties to artists or their labels for songs from any era, and Pandora considers FM radio its closest competitor as it relies largely on revenue from local advertisers.
Just because Pandora thinks radio is its competitor or because Pandora wishes really, really hard that there were like radio, it doesn’t change their status as a webcaster, doesn’t change the fact that FM radio plays far fewer recordings than Pandora does, and doesn’t change the fact that Pandora gets to take advantage of blanket licenses for sound recordings that radio clearly does not (see Clear Channel’s campaign to license directly).
Pre-1972 songs account for just 5% of total spins on Pandora, Mr. Grimaldi added.
5% of Pandora’s annual revenue roughly translates into what Tim Westergren makes a month from stock sales.
Pandora claimed it wanted to create a musician’s middle class. However it has done very little to support those words with actions. If a musician’s middle class exists as a result of Pandora’s efforts, it must be out of sight and out of mind, sweeping floors in the mansions of Pandora’s filthy rich executives. Or maybe they’re doing construction work at Pandora’s expanding offices that now stretch from coast to coast in the nation’s most expensive real estate markets. Not too shabby for a company that claims it can’t afford to do anything other than hawk advertising because of the royalties it must pay content creators.
Here’s the problem: What Pandora never thought would happen is that actual artists who own their own masters would be so offended by Pandora’s indifference to America’s musical heritage that they would be so bold as to fight back.
Fighting back is not something the “musician’s middle class” is supposed to be able to do. Much less fight back and win.
Thanks to Pandora and its shillery, they started a movement. Just not the one they wanted.