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.


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

#StandWithSongwriters Petition Against Pandora’s Exploitation

Please sign the Petition Here:

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.



Announcing The Content Creators Coalition | Brooklyn NYC Meeting Sept 24th

A new Artists Rights collective is forming by Artists & Creators, for Artists & Creators.

There is a group meeting in Brooklyn on Sept. 24th.

Sign up here to get more details about the CCC and request meeting information:

A dedicated group of artists, creators, and stakeholders are forming a new and unprecedented coalition. This coalition will allow the people who create the content that powers the web — recording artists, songwriters, journalists, filmmakers, producers, photographers, visual artists, and performers — to join together and exercise their collective voice in shaping the future of their industries.

If you are a professional artist, manager, or creator of what is often described as ‘content’, please join us. Sign up on our email list and we will contact you soon with details on how you can get involved.

Creators of all content have the right to a collective voice. We are joining together to represent the interests of participating creators in order to reshape our industries into fair and sustainable environments.

We are presently developing the legal, organizational, and technical infrastructure to create a unique organization for creators: one that harnesses the advantages of a representational and participatory structure and provides a platform for members to suggest actions, provide feedback, and vote directly in coalition campaigns.

We believe that individual artists cannot be expected to negotiate with corporations the economic size of nation-states. As professional creators of cultural content we join together to aggregate our power and to represent our interests in discussions and decisions that not only impact our ability to thrive from our work but, also enrich society with the benefits of a flourishing creative economy.

The Smoking Gun of Internet Exploitation of Musicians and Songwriters

There have been a lot of predictions about how the internet was going to empower musicians and create a new professional middle class. Unfortunately, the year end  numbers from Soundscan for the last two years just do not support those claims.


in 2011 there were 76,865 new releases, only 3,148 sold more than 2,000 units = 4% of new releases sold over 2,000 units

in 2011 there were 878,369 total releases in print, only 15,613 sold more than 2,000 units = 2% of ALL RELEASES in print sold more than 2,000 units.


in 2012 there were 76,882 new releases, only 3,074 sold more than 2,000 units = 4% of new releases sold over 2,000 units

in 2012 there were 909,799 total releases in print, only 15,507 sold more than 2,000 units = 2% of ALL RELEASES in print sold more than 2,000 units.

So in the last two calendar years only 4% of New Releases and only 2% of ALL releases managed to sell more than 2,000 units.

That means 96% of all music released and in print sells less then 2,000 units per year. Please tell us again about all of this internet empowerment?

Who do you really think is selling more than 2,000 units a year, the Indie/DIY artist uploading to TuneCore, or the artist with label support? Let us not forget, the indie/DIY artist is spending their own money now on marketing, PR, social media, everything – without those cost and expenses being advanced to the band as investments by a label.

A decade in from predictions of empowerment what we have found is more exploitation in the facts.

Overall, industry wide revenue from recorded sales is down over 50% as the growth of illegally operating infringing businesses continue to climb.

This means THREE things:

1) The overall pie for revenue opportunities is getting SMALLER, not larger.

2) The distribution of wealth is more concentrated with the largest (and legacy) artists getting a bigger overall share.

3) There are LESS opportunities for new artists to have sustainable careers without the aid of label financing.

These numbers are also consistent with this report from Salon:

No Sympathy for the Creative Class | Salon

Of course, those who continue to work in the creative class are the lucky ones. Employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show just how badly the press and media have missed the story.

Other fields show how the recession aggravated existing trends, but reveal that an implosion arrived before the market crash and has continued through our supposed recovery. “Musical groups and artists” plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011. “Newspaper, book and directory publishers” are down 35.9 percent between January 2002 and a decade later; jobs among “periodical publishers” fell by 31.6 percent during the same period.

And then there’s this from Digital Music News:

Recording Sales Declines & Musician Employment, 1999-2011…| Digital Music News

There’s more music being created than ever before, but paradoxically, musicians are making less. Which means there are also fewer musicians and music professionals enjoying gainful employment, thanks to a deflated ecosystem once primed by major labels and marked-up CDs.

It’s a difficult reality to stomach, especially given years of misguided assumptions about digital platforms. But it’s not really a revolution if it’s not getting people paid. And according to stats supplied by the US Department of Labor, there are 41 percent fewer paid musicians since 1999.

So there you have it from two different independent sources both arriving at a reduction of 40%+ fewer full time working middle class musicians since 1999 and 2002 respectively.

As we like to say around here, “If The Internet Is Working For Musicians, Why aren’t More Musicians Working Professionally?” and “Artists, Know They Enemy – Who’s Ripping You Off And How.

The enemy are the for profit businesses making money from our recordings and songwriting illegally. Let’s be clear about this, our battle is with businesses ripping us off by illegally distributing and exploiting our work for profit. This is not about our fans. It is about commercial companies in the businesses of profiting from our work, paying us nothing and then telling us to blame our fans. That is the ultimate in cowardice and dishonesty.

Pirates Won’t Stop Us from Creating, They’ll Stop Us from Sharing…

We recently reblogged a link to Trent Reznor’s interview in Spin Magazine where he stated his current feelings over the value of music as a creator. Below is a comment in response to that article that we felt deserved it’s own post.

Music, like a certain other activity, is usually done for love or money. A lot of pirates nod enthusiastically at this right up until they realize that, if there’s no money in it and a musician has to do it for love … that if I don’t love you, you don’t get any. :-)

They keep missing this part. Yes, musicians will MAKE music no matter what. But we don’t have to share it with anyone other than the people we want to share it with. In order to get into that room, now you need to persuade me you should be there. Before, you could throw money at me, and I’d let you in. Now that there’s no money in it, I need another reason. Be an asshole, and you don’t get in.

Even the threat of not making money will only work on artists for so long. They won’t just hang around and starve. Eventually, they will read the writing on the wall, bow to reality, and simply get other jobs and decouple their artistic output from their financial input. And then they really don’t have to share our music with just anyone.

The pirate kids really aren’t following this thing to its logical conclusion:

1) Decouple money from art. Then,
2) Artists get day jobs and keep them. Hence,
3) We don’t need to share our art with anyone if we don’t want to.

So make me want to.

Oh … and without handing me money, which would have been the simplest way to accomplish that, but that’s not working anymore, is it?

Neither will acting like a tantrum-throwing, entitled brat. :-)

For those in doubt, we can reference Beck who first made available his album “Song Reader” as sheet music, encouraging people to supply their own labor to hear his new songs.

Stop short-changing songwriters | The Hill

Web streaming is quickly becoming the preferred method for listening to music in this country. And Pandora, with more than 70 million active listeners and about a 70 percent market share, is by far the nation’s most popular service.

That’s why we’re deeply troubled by the pitifully low royalty Pandora pays to songwriters, composers and music publishers for the rights to stream their creative works online.It makes sense that one of Pandora’s core input costs should be royalties paid to the creators of the music they stream.

But right now, Pandora only pays about 4 percent of their annual revenue in performance rights royalties to songwriters, composers and music publishers.


Why Spotify’s Piracy Study Isn’t Cause for Celebration | SPIN | Newswire

Report shows promising signs, but only in the Netherlands…

…According to a Spotify spokesperson, the company doesn’t break down user numbers by individual country, but has 6 million paying subscribers and 24 million users worldwide…

…The report follows news that music sales increased greatly in Sweden, Spotify’s home country, corresponding with the service’s growing popularity there. Which is great news across the pond, but which doesn’t necessarily scale to America’s humungous market. The Netherlands is a country of under 17 million people with 6.8 million residential broadband connections versus the United State’s 313 million population and 82.4 million broadband users…


Artists Speak Out on Pandora’s Proposed Royalty Rate Cuts

We know that David Lowery’s post here at the Trichordist has re-ignited the debate over Pandora’s latest attempt to reduce royalty rates to songwriters, but David is not alone. During the last attempt by Pandora to screw songwriters and musicians we saw a number of artists speak out, amongst them was respected songwriter, musician and producer Jimmy Jam who testified on Capital Hill.

Here’s a look at some of the other songwriters and artists speaking out from different perspectives.

Songwriter Ellen Shipley in Digitial Music News, “My Song Was Played 3.1 Million Times on Pandora. My Check Was $39…

It is interesting and very disturbing that no one is addressing the SONGWRITER’s situation in this Pandora debacle.

Pandora wishes to REDUCE the amount of royalties that songwriters have already seen CUT in 2005. Let me give you an example of what Pandora is paying in royalties to SONGWRITERS–not the performers, but the people who write the songs–the foundation of the music world—

PANDORA —-“Heaven Is A Place On Earth” (co-written)

accounting period for 3 months—–3,112,300 streams

My Pandora royalty ……………..$39.61

Songwriter, Musician and Indie Label owner Blake Morgan in The Huffington Post, “Tim Westergren Emails Underscore Tension Between Pandora, Artists.

The AFL-CIO, NAACP, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, SoundExchange, and others all oppose this bill, and the supposition that Pandora should pay less to artists and songwriters in order to accomplish higher profitability.

The Songwriters and Musicians of the band Pink Floyd in USA TODAY, “Pink Floyd: Pandora’s Internet radio royalty ripoff.

Of course, this letter doesn’t say anything about an 85% artist pay cut. That would probably turn off most musicians who might consider signing on. All it says about royalties is “We are all fervent advocates for the fair treatment of artists.” And the only hint of Pandora’s real agenda is the innocent sounding line “We are also fervent supporters of internet radio and want more than anything for it to grow.” The petition doesn’t mention that Pandora is pushing the growth of its business directly at the expense of artists’ paychecks.

Even former Pandora employee (and  Camper Van Beethoven band member) Jonathan Segel has written about the situation on his blog, “Pandora Groupthink. (look it up).”

Several of my former workmates at Pandora seem to be drinking the Kool Aid. I’m seeing posts claiming that David Lowery and Pink Floyd are talking ‘trash’. Yes, I worked at Pandora. You can read all about that here. I also play in a band with David Lowery, it’s called Camper Van Beethoven (not the band with the song in question here.) He and I don’t necessarily agree on everything, but I’m totally backing him up on this one.

Let us also not forget that over 125 artists signed a letter to Congress opposing these rate cuts. Here they are again.

Rick Carnes, Eddie Schwartz and Fair Trade Music Project Speaks Out for Silenced Songwriters–Please sign the petition!

Music Technology Policy

The Music Creators North America (spearheading the Fair Trade Music Project) took another step toward defending the rights of creators.

In comments this week Eddie Schwartz of the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) and Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) discussed the alarming trend of the recent imprisonment of songwriters throughout the world.

“Freedom of expression is the life blood of all creators. There is a disturbing trend in many parts of the world to snuff out political opposition by denying songwriters the ability
to express themselves through their songs. This is why the Fair Trade Music Project adopted protection of free speech as one of its five principles. Without basic freedom of
expression it’s not just music that suffers… people suffer as well,” said Carnes.

The group’s fifth guiding principle reads, “Music creators must be free to speak, write and communicate without fear of censorship, retaliation…

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