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Maroon 5, Missy Elliot among artists opposing Pandora subsidy

The 125 artists who signed the letter, including 40 Grammy winners, say they're "big fans" of Pandora but don't want it to cut their royalty payments.

A large number of artists have signed a letter saying Pandora should not be allowed to "slash musicians' pay."

MusicFIRST, an organization that represents performers and their rights, along with music industry supporter SoundExchange, announced today that 125 artists, including popular band Maroon 5, Missy Elliot, T.I., and the Zac Brown Band, have signed a letter entitled "A Musicians' Perspective On Pandora," that criticizes the music-streaming company for seeking to cut its royalty payments.

"Why is the company asking Congress once again to step in and gut the royalties that thousands of musicians rely upon?" the artists asked in their letter. "That's not fair and that's not how partners work together."

At the center of this issue is the Internet Radio Fairness Act, a Pandora-backed bill now before Congress. The bill would sharply cut the royalties online radio services pay to studios and artists, making the fees more comparable to those paid by radio and satellite radio providers.

The music industry has lined up against the bill and has supported a separate bill that would instead increase the rates radio and satellite companies pay to match Pandora.

Many artists, who are in the middle of this fight, think the Internet Radio Fairness Act would hurt them financially. In fact, SoundExchange said today that if the bill is passed, musicians could expect to see their royalties slashed by 85 percent.

"This issue is critical to the tens-of-thousands of recording artists we represent -- all of whom rely on this digital performance revenue stream to make a living," SoundExchange President Michael Huppe said today in a statement. "It is important that we protect artists and the long-term value of their music, which is, after all, the foundation of Internet radio."

CNET has contacted Pandora for comment on the letter. We will update this story when we have more information.