Pandora: money trumps morality, ran ads for anti-gay group.

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Above Pandora CFO Mike Herring shows how down with the gays Pandora really is!  The link goes to a custom Pandora radio station for “Oakland Pride Radio.”   Wow that’s really going out on a limb there Pandora! I bet some of your best friends are gay! I wonder what Oakland Pride thinks of Pandora using them as a prop to excuse their donations to an anti-gay demagogue?  And what will they say when they find out Pandora ran ads for “Speak Up University?”   

 

When I worked for Pandora, I took my job seriously. My title was “Listener Advocate”, and, as a listener myself, I tried to bring the opinions of the listeners to the company. Of course, most of our job was helping people to be able to simply listen to the online station, sort of minimal tech support. However, there were several legitimate things that we initiated meetings with management about, and many times these were met with new ways to word our responses to ameliorate listener concerns.

After I had been there for about a year, and had responded to many complaints about specific ads, we started hosting tons of ads for Meg Whitman, who was running as the republican candidate in the California gubernatorial race, 2010. She came from being CEO of Ebay, (then to Hewlett-Packard afterwards) and was rich as hell, and apparently spent more of her own money on the race than any other political candidate in history ($144 million, $178 million including donations). The company was thrilled to take her money and run her ads all the time, which of course generated complaints, which I thought a lot about, and then brought them to the company.

I advocated on behalf of establishing a rule that we take ads only selling goods and services, and nothing dogmatic (i.e. politics or religion.) The company’s party line was that we would accept any advertising that ran on “major mass media”, ignoring the fact that the term “major mass media” is essentially so vague as to be meaningless. For example, we explicitly stated that we would not accept advertising about pornography or gambling, while Clear Channel, which is obviously mass media, ran billboards advertising gambling casinos all up and down the state.

I had several conversations with Joe Kennedy and Tim Westergren about this. Joe basically heard me out and then dismissed me. With Tim it was more difficult. One thing that I pointed out to him was that when we played political or dogmatic ads, it reflected on the company’s political stance. He absolutely did not believe that, he said “TV stations always run advertising for all political parties”. I said, “yes, but we see television companies as being driven only by money, so we distrust them implicitly.” Tim, as well, refused to believe that his public political action had any bearing on how the company was seen by the public-at-large. I thought that this was very short-sighted of him, and said to him that simply because he was very visibly active in politics, for example asking our listeners to advocate on the company’s behalf vis-a-vis royalty rates or other congressional mandates, that anything political that the listener hears on Pandora would be viewed with the inherent politics of the company in mind.

I brought up the hypothetical situation of running ads promoting Proposition 8, which was on the California ballot at that time, which was opposing same-sex marriage.

Tim blew me off on this, adding cryptically “I’d love to argue about this, I’m a student of Chomsky!” If he actually were, I would think he would currently be living in some sort of nightmare of cognitive dissonance. Anyway, I still advocated the idea of only advertising goods and services, and questioned the whole idea of trying to be parochial to “major mass media”. If we wanted to be a shining light in the field of “radio”, we should make our own rules, we absolutely did not have to be mini-Clear Channels. I tend to think that making our own rules about such things would work out better in the end, both internally and externally.

I didn’t realize at the time how the lip service we gave to being “pro-music” and being “about music” was covering that fact that it was, indeed, in the end, all about money, and only about money. Being moral has nothing to do with business, especially if you are in the United States, and, it seems, especially if you in the tech world. One of the engineers came by my desk and mentioned that the Meg Whitman ads were paying dollars where other paid nickels, so she was gonna get those ads placed in any case. (She lost that election, regardless.)

It was the following year that the company held its IPO and became a publicly traded entity. Then it got really bad. While Joe Kennedy claimed “an IPO is just another round of funding”, being even more beholden to the investors started to become evident. The advertising and programming choices became even more suspect, listeners began wondering what was happening. And along with the political things, came advertising that was even weirder. We got many complaints about “Speak Up University”, who appear to be a support group for “straight Christians”, but a little more research into the Speak Up organization proves it to be essentially and anti-gay hate group, among other things.

(It’s a fallacy to think that any dominant culture would need support in the face of abused minorities, the same way that there is no such thing as “masculinism” battling the tenets of feminism: feminism strives for equality; being against it is being for the current inequality of all people, regardless of gender. Nonetheless, there is so much misunderstanding of it that people are duped into thinking that they should be against it because somehow it promotes more power to one side (women in this example,) instead of simply promoting equality. One would think that the anti-gay marriage proponents believed that allowing it would make it mandatory—or Worse!)

I brought this up to the management, again. This, surely, was a moral line we should not cross in our blind acceptance of money for political or dogmatic advertising. This slightly stirred things up, partially because my team had several gay members, to say nothing of those who were simply trying to advocate morality and refused to accept that there was any difference between people regardless, and hence advertising that is divisive or hateful in any way should be avoided. We never really got closure on this, as the advertising sales people were the cream of the business crop, in their own little money-driven world, and couldn’t be bothered so much with whom they sold to, so long as they sold time or web space.

I realized at this point that the entire area of “customer service” within Pandora was backwards. The listeners were not the customers, the advertisers were. The listeners got music in exchange for listening to ads. That was the deal. Again, music was irrelevant, we could have been pumping sausage through a pipe into their mouths all day long, in exchange for watching ads. But the public perception of the company was still that it was somehow “pro-music and musicians.”

I tried to accept this all, but still had to speak out when we ran ads for “Minnesotans for Marriage”, another anti-gay hate group opposing gay marriage in Minnesota. And, looking around, our very team was segregated: the gay contingent was off to one end by themselves…This time was the last straw for management, I was brought into a meeting and told to “stop questioning decisions that had been made by the company”, that is, get with the program or get out. They said “you have some tough decisions to make”. The next day I was told to clean out my desk. Many people asked me about whether I wrote this article after I was fired (I didn’t, but it is all true.) Take a look.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/reyhan/tech-confessional-how-pandoras-ipo-changed-every

Losing my job was bad, of course, that always is, and it makes one a pariah in the tech world to simply care about the morality of what is done. I wrote this a year later: http://jsegel.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/pandora-now-a-year-down-the-road-from-me/

(To repeat some of that blog entry, when I was told by the new over-manager  “you can’t keep questioning things that the company has already made decisions on”, I replied that of course I have to keep questioning! What if people hadn’t kept questioning during the civil rights protests in the 1960s? He became really angry and reared up and said, you can’t compare these things to racial issues! I said, “uh, yes you can, I’m talking about civil rights, this ad is for an anti-homosexual group…?” When I left that day and went to a yoga class, I spoke with an expert: none other than Angela Davis was a student in the same yoga class that I went to in Oakland. She was fairly adamant that I was on the right track!)

In the past two years, Tim Westergren has proven that all he really cared about all along was the money, he and many of the other upper management and investors have been cashing out millions of dollars in stocks all the while lobbying against royalty rates to pay for the music that supposedly the whole Pandora concept is based on. And as he, and the company, become more and more politically involved, it reflects more and more on the company as a whole.

Now it has come out that Tim and Joe and others even donated to the radical right wing anti-gay congressman Jason Chaffetz. Presumably, they simply did this to throw money at him to sponsor IRFA, the “Internet Radio Fairness Act” (a very Orwellian name!) Of course doing so supports him in his entire agenda. So, they really don’t care? Or is the company based in such a sense of pseudo-morality that these people like Tim are actually supporting Chaffetz’ anti-gay agenda? How could we know?

If it is that, then this company is sick at its core. If it is only about money, then the company is amoral. That same sort of amorality and hypocrisy permeates the rich industrialists of the world, see here for example regarding the Koch family.

In any event, the Pandora bosses have made out like bandits already, so I doubt they care what happens. Maybe the company will wither, and in its withering prevent similar IPO-based “funding”.

We can only hope that they are replaced by music streaming companies that really care about music.

 

-post by Jonathan Segel

How You’re Murdering the Music Industry. | unEARTH Music Hub

Oddly, few people are talking about how much money they are actually making through Spotify, but it’s estimated that the average play is worth an abysmal $0.005. That’s half a cent…if you’re getting anything at all. An artist needs to rack up 200 plays to make $1. How are we letting this happen?! Is the general population truly oblivious to the tremendous effort and cost involved in making music?

Surprise! Songs don’t just pop out of artists like perfectly polished Easter eggs. These creative humans have dedicated a large amount of their time, money and soul to create a tangible piece of art for your listening pleasure. Studio time is expensive! Rehearsal space is expensive! Gas is expensive! Instruments are expensive! Craft beer is expensive!!! Strike that last one.

But seriously guys, when you buy music, you’re not just paying for a song, you’re supporting the artist and the process.

READ THE FULL STORY AT unEARTH MUSIC Hub:
http://unearthmusichub.com/articles/streaming-music/

Pandora Suit May Upend Century-Old Royalty Plan | NY Times

After federal antitrust investigations, both groups agreed to government supervision in 1941.

This system has hummed along for decades. But with the rise of Internet radio, publishers have complained that the rules are antiquated and unfair. They point to the disparity in the way Pandora compensates the two sides of the music business: Last year, Pandora paid 49 percent of its revenue, or about $313 million, to record companies, but only 4 percent, or about $26 million, to publishers.

“It’s a godawful system that just doesn’t work,” said Martin N. Bandier, the chairman of Sony/ATV, the world’s largest music publisher.

The wider music world has been galvanized by the issue of low royalties from fast-growing streaming companies.

For songwriters, Ascap and BMI have also been among the most reliable institutions in the music industry, and few want to see them go. But Rick Carnes, a Nashville songwriter and president of the Songwriters Guild of America, said that while these organizations had served him and his colleagues well, the Justice Department agreements that govern them were outdated and must be changed.

“This is a horse-and-buggy consent decree in a digital environment,” Mr. Carnes said. “There’s no way that works now.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE NEW YORK TIMES:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/business/media/pandora-suit-may-upend-century-old-royalty-plan.html?

FCC Shelves Pandora’s Bid For South Dakota Radio Station | Billboard

In a setback to its music licensing plans, Pandora has received word from the FCC that for the time being it is no longer processing its application to transfer ownership of the broadcasting license for KXMZ, the Rapid City, South Dakota radio station it acquired last June. Pandora had hoped to take advantage of the lower rates that internet streaming services owned by terrestrial radio stations enjoy.

READ THE FULL STORY AT BILLBOARD:
http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/legal-and-management/5869791/fcc-shelves-pandoras-bid-for-south-dakota-radio

Pandora loses BMI court battle over music licensing | Circa

Pandora has spent more than a year in legal battles with music publishers over exactly what songs the online radio service has access to.

A federal judge in New York has ruled that Broadcast Music Inc., a performance rights organization, may allow its members to prevent their music from being licensed to Pandora. The Dec. 18 decision means that Pandora may soon lose access to music from publishers like Universal and BMG.

READ THE FULL POST AT CIRCA:
http://cir.ca/news/pandoras-music-licensing-battles

IN “HISTORIC MOMENT” FOR MUSIC, PANDORA STANDS DOWN | ECR

FROM ARTIST & ECR MUSIC GROUP FOUNDER BLAKE MORGAN:

BOWING TO PUBLIC PRESSURE, INTERNET RADIO GIANT ABANDONS LEGISLATION THAT WOULD LOWER MUSIC ROYALTIES

If you spoke up about this, if you posted about it on Facebook or Tweeted about it to your friends, if you added your voice to the courageous chorus who stood up and spoke out, you helped win this fight.

This victory belongs to you.

Onward. Yours, in music…

B

READ THE FULL POST FROM BLAKE MORGAN HERE:
http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=80de27b3080b977742e48854f&id=96bee13002

Blake Morgan on Being a Musician, Pandora and Artists Rights (Video)

Guest post by Blake Morgan (copyright in the author)

Relativity Media and Google asked if I’d sit down and talk about my life in music, my new record, and the current battle being waged between musicians and Pandora that’s been garnering so many headlines. It was a terrific conversation that lasted almost two hours. Of course the piece they were looking to do was only going to be around five to eight minutes, and in the end it still turned out to be over 10 minutes long. But, there were a couple of points I felt were important beyond what was kept for the piece that I’d like to briefly underline here.

The first is that as big as the battle with Pandora is, the battle musicians are now saddled up for across the board is even bigger. Calling out Pandora on its unscrupulous double-talk to Congress and Wall Street, and fighting to get them to change their behavior is necessary and righteous. And I’m optimistic that in the long run that battle will get won. But we also have to keep our eyes on the prize: ending ad-funded piracy.

As long as the music world is bleeding revenue from the theft of our music (which in turn is sponsored by giant corporations that place ads right on the illegal download pages), the real problem won’t get solved. Our work, and our livelihoods will continue to be stolen right out from under us. Again, I’m optimistic, and I trust that we can focus on more than one righteous battle at a time. Both the important smaller one, and the over-reaching larger one.

Second, I wanted to just underline a whiff of good news in all this that I’ve been noticing. For the first time in this struggle, I’m seeing music lovers join music makers in our outrage. I’m getting letters and emails, messages, and tweets from music-loving people who are raising their own voices and saying, “I’m with you! I really understand this now…we want to get the music that matters to us, and we want you to get paid fairly.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me this, and it’s in stark contrast to what I’ve heard over the last ten years.

So I’m not hopeful in a vacuum…I believe the consciousness is changing, and that there’s a great foundation to build on. There’s so much work to do, and little time to do it if we’re going to save the young musicians out there who are hoping in turn to be musicians as their profession.

You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.

Let’s win these fights. Let’s get to work.

###

RELATED:
Pandora Tries to Convince a Musician That He Isn’t Getting Screwed…

#StandWithSongwriters Petition Against Pandora’s Exploitation

Please sign the Petition Here:
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/4273-standwithsongwriters-petition

The rights of songwriters are under attack. Pandora Media Inc., which controls 70% of the US streaming market, has launched an aggressive campaign to pay songwriters and composers less than a fair market share for their work – even as the company’s revenue and listener base has soared.

As songwriters and composers, we value the opportunities Pandora and other music streaming companies create for our music to reach new audiences. In return, we want Pandora to value our contribution to your business.

Right now, a song that is streamed on Pandora 1,000 times, earns the songwriter only 8 cents on average. And yet, Pandora is going to great lengths – even taking songwriters to court – to pay us even less.

Music drives Pandora’s business. If the company’s revenues keep getting larger, why should the rate it pays songwriters keep getting smaller?

Songwriters are not the enemy. Instead of fighting to pay music creators less than a fair market rate, join us in an effort to construct fair music licenses that allow songwriters and composers to thrive alongside the businesses that revolve around our music.

Songwriters deserve fair pay. If you agree, commit a tweet and help send this message to incoming Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews.

BREAKING: Pandora Runs to the Government to Screw Songwriters Again

Good news: Pandora is scheduled to come to the stock market with a “secondary offering”, meaning the company is essentially having a second IPO. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The Internet radio company and its venture-capital backer Crosslink Capital Inc. are slated to offer 14 million shares late Thursday[, i.e., tomorrow], a stake that was worth $336 million when it was announced after Monday’s close.

So music is good business, right? It sure is–for everyone but the songwriters and artists.

In case any songwriter wondered, Pandora has more money than you and they intend to use it to screw you as hard as they possibly can to enrich themselves.

Today Pandora won a truly Pandora-style “victory” in the ASCAP rate court by getting a federal judge to rule that Pandora–a monopolist in webcasting–can use the out of date ASCAP consent decree to force songwriters to license to them.

And make no mistake–this is a very important case to Pandora because the one way that songwriters have of getting out of the trap inside Pandora’s house of cards is to say no and refuse to license to Pandora. And “no” is the one thing that Pandora can’t have you say because their only product is music. The government granted them an effective monopoly on webcasting and Pandora intends to keep it that way.

READ THE FULL POST HERE AT MUSIC TECH POLICY:
http://musictechpolicy.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/pandora-runs-to-the-government-to-screw-songwriters-again/

MORE HERE AT DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2013/20130918pandora

How Pandora Became Music’s Big Villain – The Verge

The Verge reports on the battle over internet royalties…

Pandora struggles to win hearts and minds because its leadership lacks credibility, and has also been utterly inept at pitching the company’s plan to the public, press, and Congress. Pandora failed to generate congressional support to lower royalties last year and unless the company’s leadership dramatically changes its strategy, the popular radio service doesn’t appear to have a prayer of getting help from Washington any time soon.

Michael Pachter, a research analyst with Wedbush Securities, believes Pandora will eventually thrive but that its attempt to legislate lower costs is misguided. “The bill is idiotic,” Pachter said. “It’s insulting to Congress to say you want regulation to lower your costs at the expense of artists. Did you see who was on stage with Obama helping him campaign? Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen. That’s the Democrats, and how many Republicans are going to want to legislate against capitalism and the free market?”

RED THE FULL STORY AT THE VERGE:
http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/9/4475102/pandroas-pr-problem-why-the-company-cant-win-in-washington