Don't 'Gut' Our Royalties: Artist's' Open Letter to Pandora and Congress

Katy Perry Maroon 5 Rihanna Split - H 2012
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Katy Perry Maroon 5 Rihanna Split - H 2012

A wide-ranging coalition of 125 artists -- among them RihannaMaroon 5Katy Perry, Pink FloydLudacris, Brian Wilson and many others -- have signed their names on an open letter that sends a straightforward message to Pandora radio: we like you, but don't "gut" our royalties. 

"Pandora is now enjoying phenomenal success as a Wall Street company," reads the letter, assembled by the musicFIRST Coalition, that will be published as an ad in Billboard magazine. "Skyrocketing growth in revenues and users. We celebrate that. At the same time, the music community is just now beginning to gain its footing in this new digital world."

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In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, Pandora founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren responded that the Internet Fairness Radio Act is the "right permanent solution" for all parties involved. 

“Passage of the IRFA will mean more jobs in a sustainable industry, more choices for listeners, and more opportunities and revenue for working artists and their record labels," wrote Westergren. "When the digital music sector is allowed to grow and innovate, everybody wins."

MusicFIRST says the Pandora-backed Internet Radio Fairness Act will "slash" musician's royalty payments if passed, a press release warns. Pandora counters that the business model needs to change so that internet radio royalty fees are in line with what cable or satellite radio pays.

The signed letter by the artists states that asking Congress to address royalty fees isn't a "pressing issue" that legislators should consider at this time. "Why is the company asking Congress once again to step in and gut the royalties that thousands of musicians rely upon? That’s not fair and that’s not how partners work together," the letter says.

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A spokesperson for the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition -- which was assembled by internet radio companies like Pandora -- stated in an email to THR that "[w]e respect the artists’ concerns and are willing to work with them through the legislative process to create a healthy, sustainable, growing Internet radio business that benefits them as well as labels, distributors and consumers."

Last week, Pandora sued the The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers over fees. The N.A.A.C.P., meanwhile, issued a letter to members of Congress calling on the legislators to oppose the bill because it "deprive[s] artists and performers of fair pay for their hard work."