Pandora’s Chris Harrison Songwriter Enemy Number #1?


Informal Trichordist  poll calls Chris Harrison Songwriter Enemy #1.  Here’s  some reasons why songwriters feel this way about Pandora’s litigator in chief.

We don’t know quite why, but Pandora seems to have put Tim Westergren on ice. If we had to guess, we’d guess that this is because Westergren has served his purpose to the corporate overseers at Pandora. You know, you’ve done good job, Tim, we’ll take it from here.

Tim’s made bank on his project, we figure he’s closing in on $20 million or so. Pandora is sitting on top of about $200 million in cash. The corporate overseers gave the old management team a chance to get their numbers up the old fashioned way—screw the artists and songwriters. This artist friendly crap is over. Tim Westergren, Joe Kennedy, etc., got iced. The big dogs want the real cold blooded types now because they’re gonna get their money. And the shirts off our backs.

Enter Christopher Harrison. You may not have noticed him until recently, but he’s now firmly in charge of the artist screwing crew. Our bet is that he’ll do what the Wall Street overseers want every time like a good boy and roll over for the tummy scratch and a big green bone in his mouth—cash or stock. For whatever reason, from what we can tell he’s had a big one for creative types for a long time, especially songwriters and most particularly ASCAP.

The rumor is that this started when Harrison was at the DMX background music service. The story goes that he got the company to partner up with Music Reports (you’ve probably gotten a few thousand NOIs from them along with penny checks) to try to make an end run around the songwriter PROs. DMX—apparently led by Harrison—went out to make direct deals with publishers. The rumor is that they went to a big publisher and paid them money under an NDA to get them to give a low rate. Then they supposedly told a bunch of other songwriters and publishers what the rate was and convinced them to take most favored nations on the rates, but left out the part about the up front money. Some people might call this lying.

Then the rumor is that Harrison took the direct deals to the rate courts and showed them as evidence of a “free market rate” and the rate court Song Czars forced the PROs to take the chump MFN rate on all the songs that DMX didn’t have direct deals with, thus rat stumping all songwriters, including foreign writers.

Pretty slick!

Since the DOJ supervises pretty much anything to do with Songwriters  it’s mighty mighty curious they have never investigated this.

So if you’re a corporate overseer at Pandora and want to find someone whose really got a major big one for songwriters and artists, Harrison has to be on your short list. He’s already made his bones. If the rumors are true.

And if you look at the last Congressional hearing where Pandora appeared, guess whose bright and shiny…face…showed up at the witness table. And he you can tell he. Just. Loves. It.

He’s a serial songwriter stumper. Songwriter enemy Number 1. Can’t you just see him rolling over and barking for the corporate overseers to throw him a bone?

Other notable outrages committed by Pandora under Chris Harrison 

– This addendum compiled  by David Lowery

*Apparently colluded with Sirius and Clear Channel to stop paying royalties to legacy artists with pre-1972 recordings.  The bizarre rationale simultaneously taken by all these companies is that there is no copyright for pre 1972 recordings. ( Where is DOJ on this collusion?)  As a result Pandora will pay no royalties to civil rights icons The Freedom Singers.

The revolution will be webcast but performers won’t be paid.

Write Pandora and ask them why they are doing this:  and  Institutions should consider the moral implications of investing pension funds in this company.

* Under Chris Harrison’s leadership Pandora has repeatedly sued songwriters. These suits have cost songwriters at least 10 million dollars in legal fees..  It likely cost the US Taxpayers and Pandora just as much.   This was all so Pandora and Chris Harrison could save $4 million dollars in 2013.. These suits are so cost ineffective you have to wonder if Pandora is simply doing this to pump up their stock price.  Fake good news for the wall street stock analysts that are pedaling this crap to little old ladies and pension funds?  You need buyers when  all the  top executives  are selling tens of millions of dollars of stock each year while the company is hemorrhaging  money.  I am not a lawyer but where is the SEC investigation of this?

* Pandora may have pretended to buy a South Dakota radio station and trumpeted this to stock analysts  and the US Congress as a way to lower payments to performers.  The problem is we have been unable to find any evidence that Pandora actually owns this station.  If you have contrary evidence please send it to us.  We are stumped.  If it turns out Pandora did not buy this station they should be investigated for all manner of fraud.

* Under Chris Harrison’s direction Pandora pushed the Orwellian named Internet Radio Fairness Act.  I say Orwellian named because it claimed to level the playing field for internet broadcasters to compete with terrestrial broadcasters like Clear Channel.  Yet Clear Channel supported the bill.  How does that work.  In truth it would have slashed digital royalties owed to performers by as much as  %85 percent for Clear Channels on their web simulcasts. False and misleading statements again. How do the feds let these guys get away with this over and over again? Especially since this was trumpeted to stock analysts.

*Pandora used the virulently anti-gay Rep  Chaffetz of Utah to co-sponsor the IRFA bill.  They also contributed money to this demagogue.  Again institutions should consider the moral implications of investing in Pandora.

*I believe Pandora (and Sirius) has engaged in false advertising by claiming to pay royalties to artists performers that they no longer pay royalties to under their bizarre interpretation of the copyright act.   I don’t understand why the feds have given them a free pass on this?

*I suspect that Pandora lobbyists or  operatives  under the direction of Chris Harrison instructed Greg Barnes (DiMA and moderator of the semi-secret hearing on Capitol  Hill monday July 21st 2014) to block me from asking questions during the public panel.  Fact: I observed a woman in the row in front of me frantically texting someone. Later I observed her smartphone displayed the following two texts. “David Lowery” and “Watch out.”  Shortly before this Greg Barnes had visually indicated that he would take my question  but after the frantic texting, he told me that he was only accepting questions from “staffers.” How did he suddenly know I wasn’t a staffer? Was that a result of the text message?   (He then took a question from a law student.)  I could be  mistaken but I’d like to remind you that Pandora could  easily clear this up by publishing the text messages of all operatives and lobbyists sent from that room at that time.

*Pandora false and highly misleading statements about me personally on national television and to national  press. These were  to counter a blog post explaining how I was paid less than $17 dollars in songwriter performance royalties for a million spins of the song Low on Pandora.    These statements  were clearly intended to damage my credibility and personal reputation. Yes a 6 billion dollar company has to resort to the dirtiest of tricks to counter a single songwriter. I believe that Chris Harrison wrote or at least approved this carefully constructed obfuscation. I could have easily launched a lawsuit against Pandora but I did not. I suggest shareholders consider the reckless nature of those at the helm of this company.

Here is the statement.  It accuses me of grossly misstates Pandora’s payments to songwriters when I did not.  I have the royalty statements to prove it.

“Mr. Lowery misrepresents and grossly understates Pandora’s payments to songwriters,” a Pandora spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson said that Pandora must pay BMI and ASCAP, the organizations that represent songwriters and publishers, along with other parties — adding up to “many times more” in songwriter royalties than what Lowery noted in his post.

See how they did that?  To date Pandora has not retracted or apologized for this false and misleading statement despite my request to do so.