How much does Pandora pay musicians?


By web gangsta | Published:

Web Watch has covered the COMPLICATED WORLD OF MUSIC ROYALTY PAYMENT CALCULATIONS in the past, showed you how to calculate MUSIC ROYALTY PAYOUTS with a MUSIC ROYALTY CALCULATOR, and even told you HOW MUCH MONEY iTUNES PAYS ARTISTS.

And yet, the question keeps coming up over and over from various artists: HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I MAKE ONLINE WITH MUSIC?

And the answer keeps coming back as “not as much as you’d think”.

The Ultimate Digital Music Guide: The Best Way to Store, Organize, and Play Digital Music
The Ultimate Digital Music Guide: The Best Way to Store, Organize, and Play Digital Music

Take cellist Zoe Keating, for example.

She knows that her music is being played on PANDORA, as she gets payments from them.

It’s not a lot of money, however.  For her, she got $1,652 from Pandora, representing “more than 1.5 million listens”.  Yup, Internet radio certainly has been a boon for struggling musicians everywhere, hasn’t it?

Sorry, but that $1,652 barely covers one month rent in some parts of New York City, and that represents a 6-month report from Pandora.  There are tons of people who say that Pandora is the future of music. That it’s (relatively) commercial-free.  That it puts the power of the music back in the hands of the listener.

But for all those claims, it appears to be a failing business model — at least from the artists’ viewpoint. Those very same artists, without whom Pandora wouldn’t exist in the first place.  It’s not likely to happen that artists would pull their music from a service where they can get exposure (as Zoe says, and extra $1,652 is certainly a start), but being paid that little money seems a bit unfair.

Especially when PANDORA CLAIMS MILLIONS ARE BEING PAID OUT TO ARTISTS all the time.

  • Over 2,000 artists will receive over $10,000 each over the next 12 months.
  • More than 800 artists will receive over $50,000 over the next 12 months.
  • Major artists like Coldplay or Adele will bring in over $1 million in 12 months
  • Drake and Lil Wayne are pulling in $3 million apiece.

All this says to Web Watch is that Pandora is not different from traditional radio; the popular artists are still going to be the popular artists, no matter how the listener is finding them.  People who want to hear Adele or Coldplay or Drake will gravitate to those Pandora stations that cater to those artists, just like those same people would turn on their local favorite radio station that also plays those artists.  That they’re listening to Pandora (a more-or-less computer-driven playlist) instead of a hand-curated playlist from a radio station is meaningless — the end result is the same, the artist is getting exposure to the listener and finding their audience.  Pandora accounts for 6.5% of radio listening in the US, but there’s really no difference between Pandora’s stance of being “personalized radio” and a music director and program director at a local station who really understand their market/audience and continually tweak their station’s sound to match.

As Pandora themselves state, “Imagine the impact on artists if this industry grew to become 25% or even 50% of radio listening.”

So why is Pandora’s artist rates that much different from those numbers that come from traditional media?   Well, that’s a different story for a different day.

But let’s get back to Zoe’s issue.

While she’s concerned about making more money, her real beef with Pandora is that all she wants is a little bit more information from them about how their listeners are interacting with her music.

  • How many songs are thumbed up or down?  Which songs?
  • What other artists are being listened to on the related Pandora stations?
  • Exactly what is being measured in the first place?  Performances, listens, something else entirely?
  • When and where were my songs played? You have geographic info. You have playback timing. Give me information about my songs so I can know more about my audience.
  • Give me opportunities to reach that audience and tell them a bit more about me, or where I’m playing next.

Zoe’s not really asking for the moon here.

Pandora has that information in some database, somewhere.  All Zoe wants is not just the cash – although any money is better than no money – but she also wants to know a little bit more about herself.

And that’s something that’s not so crazy to ask for, is it?