You would think that any song being played more than one million times on Pandora would be earning a fairly substantial amount of money for the artists, right?

According to songwriter/performer David Lowery of Cracker, in the 4th quarter of 2012, Pandora played the 1993 hit song 'Low' 1,159,000 times and only paid out $42.25 in royalties. Since Lowery only owns 40% of the rights to 'Low', he was left with a grand total of  $16.89, or as he put it "less than I make from a single T-shirt sale."

The argument and debate over artist royalties has gone on for decades, but in the last few years we have seen numerous forms of music services promoting the fact that they pay out royalties to the artists. If you look at the commission statements below that Lowery has posted online you can see just how much these different outlets actually pay out (click to enlarge the images). The numbers circled on the left represent the number of times the song was played while the numbers circled on the right represent the total amount paid in royalties to Lowery.

Royalties paid by online services
Royalties paid by satellite radio
Royalties paid by terrestrial radio


Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t Pandora get off the couch and get an actual business model instead of asking for a handout from congress and artists? For instance: Right now Pandora plays one minute of commercials an hour on their free service. Here’s an idea! Play two minutes of commercials and double your revenue! (Sirius XM plays 13 minutes and charges a subscription).

I urge all songwriters to post their royalty statements and show the world just how terrible webcasting rates are for songwriters.

Lowery does mention that this is only the songwriter royalties and although he receives separate and higher royalties for being the performer of the song and will release those numbers soon as well, but states that they are "also quite lame."