Pandora Payouts "Embarrassing" According to Rodney Jerkins

Grammy-award winning producer Rodney Jerkins (pictured) has questioned Pandora founder Tim Westergren over the "embarrassing" payouts songwriters and producers earn from their tracks being listened to on his internet radio platform.

Speaking from the audience at the Code/Media conference in California, Jerkins asked Westergren what he was doing to do to change the disparity between payouts for songwriters/composers and performers.

Raising the example of Pharrell Williams, who earns $250,000 from Pandora for his hit song Happy as a performer, yet only receives "$2,700 off 44 million plays, which is about $60 per million plays" for the same song as its producer/songwriter, Jerkins said it's time Pandora "embraced the creative community".

Jerkins' work includes Sam Smith's Stay With Me, as well as classic tracks including The Boy Is Mine by Brandy and Monica, Whitney Houston's It's Not Right But It's Okay and Say My Name by Destiny's Child.

"What are you going to do to change the model, so songwriters and producers, the content creators, get properly paid?" he said.

"I'm listening to my songs on Pandora, it's kind of embarrassing to receive these checks sometimes in the mail that can't even take care of our family's monthly mortgage or allowance, knowing that we've got a hit song that just garnished 43 million views on your station. What are you going to do to change that?"

Westergren said the split in ratio between performer and composer, established by federal law and consent decree over time (where 4% of revenue goes to publisher/composer and 50% to performer), isn't his "quarrel".

"I think that's to be figured out from the content side," he explained. "We don't have a dog in that fight. However, we made a small profit last year, we’re going to do north of a billion dollars next year, we have a team of about 1,000 employees whose full time job is monetisation on Pandora.

"We're giving 50% of our revenue out to the industry. Our incentive is to generate as much money as possible as a public company, and a big piece of that is going back to the industry. I don't know what more to do than what we're doing in that regard."

The exec pointed to the "positive economic shift in the industry" that's the move from broadcast to web. The example, however, highlights how performers have benefited from that move, not the songwriters/producers that Jerkins is fighting for.

Said Westergren: "Broadcast radio does not pay performers anything, every hour that goes from AM FM to web radio is a huge positive move for the industry. Radio broadcasters is a $16/17 billion dollar industry that doesn’t pay performers. I think one of the most positive economic shifts in the industry is the move from broadcast to the web."

Jerkins responded: "I feel like [your answer] is the run around. I do feel Pandora pays more than YouTube and Spotify but I feel once you embrace the creative community, the writers where the content begins... and you being an artist as you know, there's no artist without a song."

Source: Music Week
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AIRPLAY 360 is a monthly published digital magazine designed to inform, empower and motivate independent inspirational musical artists by offering a soundboard of information provided by artists, producers, label executives and other industry professionals.
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