Pink Floyd to Pandora: Shut up, you crazy cubic zirconium

In an open letter to Pandora, three members of the rock band decry the notion that they (or anyone) should accept an 85 percent reduction in royalties.

Loggerheads. HDPinkFloyd/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The wrangling between those who'd like to be paid for creating music and those who would like to pay them a shoelace and a Mars bar may never end.

In the latest edition of "Oh, No You Don't," Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd have buried the hatchet, then together picked it up and embedded it into Pandora's (Voice) Box.

They are royally miffed at what they see is Pandora's attempt to hoodwink artists into supporting a reduction on their royalties of 85 percent.

So in a USA Today editorial aimed squarely at Pandora, the Pinkies accuse the company of crimson subterfuge.

They say artists are getting e-mails from Pandora and its co-founder, Tim Westergren, asking for support for the concept of Internet radio.

In fact, they say, this is merely a sneaky ruse. Said Floyd: "A musician could read this 'letter of support' a dozen times and hold it up to a funhouse mirror for good measure without realizing she was signing a call to cut her own royalties to pad Pandora's bottom line."

Suspicious that Pandora is again pressuring Congress to decimate artists' royalties, Floyd insist: "A business that exists to deliver music can't really complain that its biggest cost is music."

It isn't that these artists are being unreasonable, they say. They "would gladly work with Pandora to end AM/FM's radio exemption from paying any musician royalties -- a loophole that hurts artists and digital radio alike."

It's easy to scoff that Pink Floyd wallow at the wealthy end of the musical spectrum.

However, with entirely coincidental timing, here is musician David Lowery, who says that despite getting his song played more than 1 million times on Pandora, he received only $16.89.

Meanwhile, after Pandora went public, some of its executives posted photos of their material wealth, which can't have hummed a cheery tune in the ears of some musicians.

Some might argue that -- as with so many Web businesses that rely on volume -- Pandora's only viable business model is to secure its content cheaply. That's all there is. Ask Facebook and Google, for example.

The only truly muscular thing musicians can do is to remove their works from Pandora, -- by withdrawing from performance rights organizations -- and see what happens. How many, though, are prepared to do it? How many, indeed, can afford to?

I'll see you on the dark side of the negotiations.

 

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