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

More on moneyNOW

Tags: PPolitics
Jun 25, 2013 12:25PM

Pandora should play nicer. Most musicians have existed without Pandora. Pandora without musicians is dead in the dustbin.

Jun 25, 2013 12:29PM
These so called "greedy musicians" have probably done more charity work in more countries than any other musician outside of Bono from U2.  They've been outspoken with regard to poverty, malaria, children's causes and tsunami relief.  Not exactly what I would call "typical."  Get your facts straight.
Jun 25, 2013 2:19PM

16.89 for a million plays is basically 1/1000 of 1 cent. per play.

I can understand their frustration.

That IS pretty low Pandora.

Shame on you. I can find music elsewhere anyway.

Jun 25, 2013 2:26PM
Pandora is a distributer. The artist produces the product. There is no pandora without the artist product. Simple logic who should get the cheese.
Jun 25, 2013 12:28PM
Artist and recording companies wonder why we pirate their music. Give me a song that can be bought cheaply ($1) online and used on any and all of my devices without DRM (Digital Rights Management) restrictions and I will start purchasing music again
Jun 25, 2013 2:25PM

Pandora really seems to be equal to a spoiled brat who can also be a bully. 


They've had their 15 minutes....not that i ever liked it enough to buy it.


Someone needs to find out what's next and let Pandora go the way of VHS tape.

Jun 25, 2013 1:42PM
How about Pandora find a way to make money on it's own rather than relying on special grants and privileges from congress? They are exactly right. If the artists are too greedy than their music will not be heard or bought & they will need to rethink their strategy. But to go to congress and force people to charge less than they want to is in my opinion immoral.  None of us would be happy if your company could be made to accept lower prices, and therefore drop your wages so that a consumer would pay less. This would be an arbitrary decision made by non-players in the game. The consumers who support this with by stupid catch phrase like "support internet radio" simply want more free stuff. ie music they either pay little or nothing for. I listen to little or no music, i don't quite value it like when i was young so in the end I am unaffected. This IMHO is a HUGE problem generally, that people/groups/companies can go to the government to have congress force someone to do something they could get the other party to do voluntarily. It makes the entire system arbitrary & tyrannical. 
Jun 25, 2013 3:11PM

I hope PINK FLOYD and all of the other musicians win out on this. Most musicians got screwed by there managers and record companies, why should they give up any of there royalties.

These musicians worked hard to provide us with the GREAT MUSIC they created, if anyone thinks there life was easy you don't have a clue.

Jun 25, 2013 2:45PM
I don't blame the musicians. If someone told me that I coul join a group but had to take an 85% decrease in pay then HeLLZ NO !! There are a number of music outlets like Pandora (Rhapsody, Spotify, etc)  all of which will gladly pay the artists if it means getting rid of Pandora and someof the competition. The artits do NOT need Pandora. Pandora NEEDS the artists to stay in business. Pandora is biting the hand that feeds it.
Jun 25, 2013 3:30PM
As much as I may enjoy having music on the internet, I support the Artists 100%.  Apparently greedy Pandora has never been to a concert like the ones that Pink Floyd put on (I have several times).  Those cost a fortune to put on the show that they did and am hoping that the group will once more perform for us.  I own every single recorded song available by Pink Floyd.  It was their timing in Cleveland that really impressed me.  When there were helicoptor sounds, helicoptors happened over the open stadium, when it was planes, that made such an impressive huge plane making it over the stadium that the entire night was sight and sound and event.  My daughter took us and treated us to 5th row VIP seating, (she and I ended up in row 1 by the end).  A good time was had by all, needless to say. 

My point is, in order to record an album, to practice, pay the staff, rent on space, transporting equipment, and so on, it costs big money to put those artists out there.  I'm just using then as an example.  I grew up when recording artists, like the Kinks were scammed out of their money, and as well as several in MoTown and many more.  Well I say NO MORE.  Pandora, the world, listen up.  Either practice up and create hour own fame, or pay the price.  These people through BS&T have earned their dreams, realized them, and in perpetuity they should reap the full rewards of their artistry as should their families after until the end of time in every form of reproduction realized now and yet to come. 

I'm thinking of telling my kids, my grandkids to BOYCOTT PANDORA.

Jun 25, 2013 3:08PM
Jun 25, 2013 3:26PM
The artist's music is their stock in trade.  This is how they earn a living.  And trust me, they dont all have Lady Gaga's income.  Some barely survive.  Many still get only 15% royalties while the record companies get 85%.  That despite the fact that the theory of copyrights and royalties is that the record company produces "hard copy" (you know, LPs, CDs cassettes and the like, remember them?) that entitles them to 85%.  Sounds ridiculous when music is distributed online, with no hard copy.  So in the end, here comes Pandora.  Yet another giant corporation standing in line to screw the artists out of benefitting from the ideas that came from their own heads. 
Jun 25, 2013 5:06PM

The internet already caused the death of the record industry years ago, hence outrageous concert ticket prices.

Good old stores like The Wherehouse, Tower Records, Virgin records and Mom & Pop stores could not sell products kids could get for free. Now this...

Jun 25, 2013 2:33PM
HA! I'll be laughing when I see Pandora try to grease the skids so their corporate earnings can continue to soar. The only thing they care about is their bottom line at the expense of an artist's bottom line. Artists continually get screwed by people having to pay them their fees, which in certain ways is the cause of the demise of corporate radio in general. Take ASCAP for example - one primary reason for existence is because so many lawsuits have been filed historically trying to get (small time) artists their royalty checks. It takes some jack to fight corporate radio to get your royalty dues - so they band all of these artists together to fight for every penny (for a fee). Our local NPR station (in opposition) has to be methodical about tracking what they play because it is not a programmed stack of music like the corporate owned radio stations who have a SW program that is queued up, not by preferential tastes, by PPM listener feedback. F-ing total disgrace - any monkey can press play. The whole industry is trying to figure out how to make a dollar in this new found time of free music. Hard to shut Pandora's box - and the artist's have every right to tell them to fly a kite.
Jun 25, 2013 5:54PM

drive to Detroit and tell Dr Dre he don't deserve royalties from something he did 20 years ago

Jun 25, 2013 4:19PM
Pandora already has commercials-unless you pay.  So, they can figure it out, just like Netflix has and have a monthly membership fee.  Or go out of business.
Jun 25, 2013 4:12PM
How about this. Pandora can pay the artist more money, and then every time a listeners uses a buy now link the artist has to pay Pandora? As a listener who has bought a lot of music discovered on Pandora, it sounds extremely fair to me. Publicity is not always free.
Jun 25, 2013 4:46PM
My son tells me that Pandora is now out (no longer the in thing).  There is a new hip Internet radio station/program called, Jango.  So Pandora's days may be numbered.  Until they go belly-up, Pandora needs to compensate the artists appropriately and fairly.  After all, Pandora made $125.5 m last year on the backs of the musicians and their music.  I think they can afford to pay the artists fairly. 
Jun 26, 2013 11:09AM
Music is a work product and must be protected, not exploited.
Jun 25, 2013 8:23PM
The ignorance of all of you is appalling. These so called "artists" are mostly lip syncing morons that are paid astronomical amounts of money for music that isn't worth the .80 cents it costs for the CD it's put on . This is why the RIAA is taking 85% of the revenue because it costs that much to make all of you idiots believe that the these CDs and DVDs are worth spending your hard earned money on. The real "Artists" are the ones that spend their entire careers playing a gig that is offered to them for less money than it costs them to play it.  The entertainment industry is such a farce. Ignoring true artists and promoting musicians and actors they hand pick and choose to make "famous" then pay ridiculous salaries to for music and movies that are complete trash is why we are ridiculed and despised by our own allies. I just watched an episode of Top Gear where one of Pink Floyd's members was on with his million dollar Ferrari, oh yes Pink Floyd's Members are hurting for cash. We sit back and watch "Life styles of the rich and famous" and "Cribs" and want to Boo Friggin Hoo because some overpaid underworked celebrity/artist only got $16 for a royalty????????????? This is why the human race is doomed and will go extinct. We will willingly pay these idiot actors and artists millions for "entertainment" instead of putting those millions towards curing Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and the hundreds of cancers that kill our children with brain tumors before they are 2 years old. I have an 18 year old student that is currently in Johns Hopkins who is losing his battle with cancer because you would rather pay Brad Pitt 100 million to make a movie that will be on Netflix in a week than spend that money to find a cure for the cancer TJ Rufty from Middletown High School is currently fighting. Yes lets make sure Pink Floyd's members have gas money for their Ferraris. Hang in there TJ all of us from MHS are with you bro.
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