Dave Carlock: Pandora doesn’t deliver for music creators

Published 7:50 am Friday, September 27, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about Pandora’s contribution as a music delivery system over the past six months or so and I realized I’m all for selfish convenience. Look at how far we’ve come to establish a convenient level of modern living in the 21st Century.
The days of lanterns and candlelight in my home are gone: electricity is at constant supply. All I have to do is flip a switch.
I don’t have to build a fire to cook either. I can use electricity to power a stove, or in certain cases, use natural gas to power a superior gas range and oven. Just turn on the appliance and the energy needed to fulfill my demand 24/7 is there.
I don’t have to go to the community well and carry buckets of water to my home for drinking and bathing. All I have to do is turn a spigot.
If I want constant entertainment, I turn on cable TV and I have plenty of variety and choice. I don’t have to get people together in a room any more or go to a place where someone is presenting something.
I don’t have to post letters anymore if I don’t want, I can send email through my internet service provider and speak to people instantly around the world, with the message even being retrieved in a moving vehicle if the recipient has a smartphone.
Pandora has contributed to this level of convenience that we all enjoy by sending an unending supply of music to our millions of homes. All we have to do is type in a web address and go to their site.
But there’s a huge difference between all of these monumental changes and Pandora. We pay for all of the convenience in the aforementioned examples. When prices go up, we still pay. Maybe we curb our usage to save cost, but oh, we pay.
Pandora is a free music delivery service, unless users upgrade to a paid “commercial free” version. Fair enough. There’s nothing more annoying than having Pandora on in the background when you’re making out with someone and suddenly those sterile commercials come on telling you “INTEREST RATES ARE SHRINKING!”
But who with a rational mind would expect to get someone to send a bottomless supply of music to our homes for free? Well, most people don’t think about it, actually. The internet has been a model of “pay for a computer and a monthly ISP fee and look at what you can get for free” since its spread from techies to the general populace in the mid 90s. There’s this idea that anything on the internet should be free, and music had been free to people before the internet explosion on terrestrial radio so it’s easy to see how people don’t assign a value to music delivery and a responsibility to music creators to be paid for it. But let me explain how professional artists have survived throughout the ages:
Ever since the days of classical composers, an enormous amount of time was put into creating their compositions and then presenting them through performance. How did those composers live? They were paid by the Royal Court in some instances or by wealthy patrons who loved music and wanted to participate in its creation. For example, Mozart’s “Requiem” was commissioned anonymously by a masked patron who paid so handsomely that his creepily withheld identity didn’t even deter Mozart from accepting the job, which he was working on the day of his death.
But short of being in the room for the concert, how could more people enjoy the music of Mozart that those in the know had been hearing of? Sheet music was once the only way that a composition could be heard outside of these exclusive concerts—the original music distribution method. Printing presses were employed and composers (songwriters) were given a royalty for each copy sold, as it was determined to be fair and just payment to creators of music for its distribution. A royalty was also determined to be fair and just to give to the “publisher” of the piece, whom the layman could think of as “the business side” of getting the songwriter’s work out to the public at all.
With the advent of broadcast capability and physical sales of recorded music in the 20th century, royalties were also assigned to the publishers and songwriters and paid by the broadcasters, radio stations, and record companies.  What Pandora is doing is trying to reestablish a new lower royalty payment to the creators of the music that they base their business model on, and it’s outrageous.
NEXT WEEK: A look at how music creation has been subsidized invisibly by sponsorship just like your iPhone, and how this new move by Pandora is just a bold move to cut music creators out of fair payment for the music that makes people tune into Pandora in the first place.TO BE CONTINUED

©2013 27 Sounds, Inc. Dave Carlock is a 26-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable. His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District.