After Pandora’s “Internet Radio Fairness Act” collapsed last year under overwhelming opposition, we figured they would try to rally at least some token support from musicians before bringing the bill back this year. But we honestly couldn’t fathom how they would convince any musician to support the legislation, which could slash musicians’ Internet royalty payments by 85%.
Now we know.
Emails they’ve been sending to our members lay bare their cynical strategy: ask artists to sign a vaguely worded petition, don’t tell them what it’s for, and offer the false promise of promotion in return for signing on the dotted line. This might be the worst music industry scam I’ve ever seen.
The emails are coming from various folks at Pandora – could be Mike Fink, Lead Curator, Artist and Label Relations Manager for example, or even Pandora CEO Tim Westergren – and start with a benign subject line like “Hello from Pandora.”
“You represent a particularly important part of our collection – independent artists that are getting a lot of exposure. I’d like to give you a look at Pandora’s listener data analytics and hear your opinions about how we can use this information, and our product’s capabilities to benefit your career.”
Think about it. You are an artist who has submitted your music to Pandora and you get this unsolicited email offering to help you with your career for free. This could be your big break.
So what’s the catch? The emails direct you to sign on to a “‘letter of support’ for internet radio.” But don’t worry -- the Pandora exec assures you that the letter “is not to advocate a particular position, but make members [of Congress] aware of the missing voice on this issue, and for that matter other issues surrounding copyright, royalties, licensing, etc.”
OK, but what is “this issue” that these emails keep referring to? Pandora doesn’t seem real interested in just coming out and explaining, but we get a clue in the petition itself: “We are all fervent advocates for the fair treatment of artists. We are also fervent supporters of Internet radio and want more than anything for it to grow; and to grow as fast as possible."
You want Pandora to grow “more than anything,” huh? More than getting paid a far wage for playing your songs?
Tim Westergren has argued that what Pandora needs “to grow as fast as possible” is to cut musicians’ royalty paychecks by 85%, which is exactly what the bogus “Internet Radio Fairness” bill would do. The petition doesn’t come right out and endorse this, per se, but when IRFA comes up again this year you can bet that Tim will be waving this petition all over Congress as proof that musicians support these absurd arguments. You just need a look at the videos Pandora has already put out to see how vague artist testimonials in support of Internet radio can be manipulated to promote the company’s corporate agenda.
As the Recording Academy’s Neil Portnow has asked: “Would you sign a petition to get paid less money?”
SoundExchange has warned of "divide and conquer" tactics.
But what about the gold Pandora offered you? A peek inside its precious listener data? Well, ask yourself this. If Pandora was really looking out for Independent musicians, would it ask them to join some phony advocacy campaign before sharing what it can?
When it comes to Pandora’s email solicitation: buyer beware. You may have just received the musician’s equivalent of paying $100 for a $25 coupon book.