Pink Floyd reunites -- to battle Pandora

The famed rock band's surviving members are targeting the Internet radio service over its paltry royalties.

By Aimee Picchi Jun 25, 2013 11:55AM

File photo of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour performing in Hyde Park in London on July 2, 2005 (© JOHN D MCHUGH/AFP/Getty Images)Updated at 6:36 p.m. ET.


Money, it turns out, isn't such a gas.


The surviving members of the progressive English rock band Pink Floyd are reuniting in a public battle against Pandora Media (P), claiming the Internet radio service is trying to "trick artists into supporting their own pay cut." 


Legendary rockers Roger Waters, David Gilmour (pictured) and Nick Mason outlined their grievances in a USA Today op-ed that sounds like something out of their 1973 hit "Money," which contains the warning: "Share it fairly/But don't take a slice of my pie."

The battle is over Pandora's approach to royalties, with the streaming service campaigning to lower its payments. Last year, Pandora sued the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which collects royalties for songwriters and publishers, and it supported the Internet Radio Fairness Act, which aimed to decrease royalties paid by streaming services.  


What provoked Pink Floyd's surviving members to take to the pages of USA Today is a new tactic in Pandora's royalty battle. They write that the company is reaching out to artists around the country, asking them to "be part of a conversation" and to sign a simple "letter of support" for Internet radio. 


"Who doesn't support Internet radio? What scrooge would refuse to sign such a positive, pro-music statement?" they note. "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."


Other musicians are joining in with outrage. David Lowery, the founder of Camper Van Beethoven and a co-founder of Cracker, wrote in a blog post Monday that Pandora played his song "Low" more than 1 million times "and all I got was $16.89." He added: "Why doesn’t Pandora get off the couch and get an actual business model instead of asking for a handout from Congress and artists?"


Pandora took issue with Pink Floyd's characterization, writing to MSN moneyNOW that the band members "have been given badly misleading information – the result of a well-orchestrated campaign by the RIAA and their lobbying arm to mislead and agitate artists." 


The assertion of an 85% pay cut "is simply not true," a spokeswoman wrote in an email. "We never, nor would we ever, support such a thing," she wrote. 


Royalties have been a major sore spot for Pandora. Chief executive Joe Kennedy told Bloomberg in March that it's looking for "a royalty structure that allows Internet radio to grow as fast as possible." 


But it's not as if Pandora isn't growing. The company's first-quarter revenue jumped by 55% to $125.5 million, although it also booked a $28 million loss. Its shares had climbed by 65% this year through Monday. 


However, as the Pink Floyd members wrote, "a business that exists to deliver music can't really complain that its biggest cost is music. You don't hear grocery stores complain they have to pay for the food they sell."


Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi


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