Should artists have to PAY TO PLAY?

Hi guys!  I've decided I need to start a little blog section on this site for posts about life as an indie artist.  I won't have a LOT of time for these posts, so they'll mostly be short.  Today I am prompted by the recent discovery that Jango radio actually CHARGES THE ARTISTS MONEY to play their music.  If you're an artist, you access your profile through  I'm not going to link to it because I don't want to elevate their google rank. 

Some people may not think this is a big deal, but let me tell you, revenue streams for music makers have been steadily drying up for the last 15 years, and this is just one more strangle hold the current business model is tightening around the financial throats of the creative types. [Oh, and by the way, they STILL PLAY ADS.]

...the last time I checked, you cannot buy groceries with “good exposure”.

Here is our royalty statement from the 4th quarter of 2013.  These are the songs from our 2007 album.

Notice under "internet" where one song got 5,475 plays and was literally paid a $.02 for those plays.  TOTAL.  Also, see below that where 41K+ plays on Pandora made $2.  You'd think getting 41K plays of a song would be pretty awesome 7 years after it was released, but clearly this is not even enough for a gallon of gas.**

Just out of curiosity, I looked up as far back as I could with my online statements, which was from 2009.  Here's a screen shot of one section of that statement...

[This is before BMI started grouping items by the source of revenue.]  If you compare the three consecutive Pandora items for Midnight in Venice, there are 3 different payout rates, the worst of which is 447 plays paying $.10.  That breaks down to $.00022 per play.  Compare that to the 2013 rate where 41,932 plays paid $2.24.  That breaks down to $.000053 per play.  So by my calculations, the ratio in Pandora's payout rate between 2009 and 2013 is 4.15:1.  We are now getting less than 1/4th of what we did in 2009 from songwriter royalties for streaming airplay.  And this is the direction music consumption is going.

Many artists are scrambling to try to license their songs for film, tv, and ad placement.  But many sites will charge you $5 to submit your songs for consideration and knowing what a complete long shot those types of music searches are... it can be as financially beneficial as playing the slots or buying lottery tickets.

So, we come to Jango.  Here is their pricing structure for asking artists to pay them to play their music.

Based on this business model, it seems that listeners’ attention is the commodity and the artists are the customers. How did we get so far off track?

It's not a new thing for artists to be asked by live performance venues to "pay to play", which is terrible.  You PAY for the "privilege" to play music for a live audience.  To what gain?  So they'll buy your CD!?  Not since 2008.  So they'll pay to download your music?  Not super likely.  So they might stream it?  See my BMI statement above.  To get more twitter followers? Try writing "400 new twitter followers" on your electric bill and see how far that goes.  So they'll buy your T-shirt?  What kind of business is this? What is the commodity here?  Based on this business model, it seems that listeners' attention is the commodity and the artists are the customers. How did we get so far off track?

So, Jango charges the artist $.03 per play for their song, but "internet" only pays the artist  $.00000365 per play. *

It's bad enough that the pay to play mentality has become so accepted in live venues, we cannot let this cancerous soul sucking mentality spread to radio. 

Because the last time I checked, you cannot buy groceries with "good exposure".



*[Note: BMI pays songwriter and publisher royalties.  I cannot tell you what the "artist" [non-songwriter] royalty rate is because those royalties are paid by Sound Exchange, and their royalty statements never tell us exactly how many plays they are paying us for.  Just the dollar amount.  Zero transparency. But that's a whole other issue.]


**[For full disclosure, I didn't want to put this in the middle of the post because it's not essential to the main point and not everyone wants a lesson in how royalties work, but this statement only shows one side of the royalties.  With BMI [and all performing rights organizations], royalties actually are in a 200% total.  Publishers get 100% and songwriters get 100%.  This statement is only showing one of those sides.  So, since we happen to own our own publishing, we actually get all 200%, so you can actually double that $.00000365, but that doesn't really change the message.  It's still super low, and it's still less than 25% of what we made in 2009.  And people are still moving more toward streaming than downloading.  And it still doesn't justify the pay to play mentality.  Also, getting all 200% is not everyone's reality.  Many artists are co-writing, and many don't own their publishing.  So many people will only get half of that $.00000365 per play.]


MORE: It's not just music that is devalued.  All forms of creative work.  Check this out.