Pandora failed last year to get the Internet Radio Fairness Act passed, a measure that would have reduced their payment requirements to artists. They’re trying again this year and they’re attempting to get the support of the artists themselves, but they have one big opponent who is sounding the alarm: Pink Floyd.
In an editorial on USA Today, Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason expressed the opinion of one of modern music’s pioneering bands by pointing out that the support letter that Pandora is sending to artists skips one major detail – passage would cause an 85% reduction in pay to the artists for plays on internet radio.
“Fine print is one thing,” that noted in their article. “But 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.”
Despite the push by many to make entertainment content on the internet as close to free as possible, it’s hard to make a case that starving the artists is a move that will benefit progress or musical innovation. If the chances of making money diminish, the willingness to enter the field go down as well. Pink Floyd is taking a road that should be able to get enough opposition to the plan from both artists and music consumers.
Few would argue that Pandora and similar services are bad for music or bad for the people that use them. However, there needs to be a balance between what the artists make and what the providers make. They need each other. As the digital age continues to consume our attention and shift the balance away from traditional forms of entertainment delivery to an online, choice-based model, there lines blur between what’s fair and what’s best for the companies’ bottom lines as well as the paychecks of the content creators.