Just when you thought they couldn’t go any lower those mother****ers find a way. Right in the middle of our annual “streaming services exploit artists but they’re so convenient so maybe it’s okay” debate, Pandora has made a deal with indie distributor Merlin to feature Merlin’s catalog at a lower streaming rate than that set by Royalty (or Rate) Court at the Library of Congress. This obviously gives Pandora a monetary incentive to play music from that catalog more often than other songs which would increase Pandora’s operating costs.
This is exactly the reason why congress passed Title 47 §317 regarding PAYOLA. From the FCC’s website:
Federal law and FCC rules require that employees of broadcast stations, program producers, program suppliers and others who, in exchange for airing material, have accepted or agreed to receive payments, services or other valuable consideration must disclose this fact. Disclosure of compensation provides broadcasters the information they need to let their audiences know if material was paid for, and by whom.
Pandora’s agreement with Merlin would, without question, constitute as “valuable consideration” and by law, each time one of those songs play for that discounted rate, Pandora should have to indicate that the programming is “sponsored.”
Of course, that won’t happen… if the FCC has done anything in the last decade, it has expertly sat on its hands while ISPs and media companies have continued to operate unchecked. Who hasn’t felt that familiar sting inside your asshole after dealing with AT&T or Comcast or Charter or which ever flavor of big hairy dick is available in your neighborhood? And despite all this it doesn’t appear that things will change any time soon… I sincerely doubt net neutrality will survive 2015 lest it be turned into a presidential debate topic.
You’ll never hear an artist thank their Spotify or Pandora fans. To an artist, there is no distinction between paid and free streaming; its all the same for the first 10 million plays and less than 0.1% of those who try will ever hit that mark. So the next time you go to pay that Spotify or Pandora subscription, consider the fact that none of that money is going into the pocket of the artists you love… and that your favorite artist probably has a SoundCloud and a shirt for sale.
Fuck the suits. Support artists. Support music.
… or we’re going to end up with a lot of Taylor Swift.