Pink Floyd: Pandora Is Trying to Trick Artists

Service wants acts to support Internet radio while also seeking a huge royalty cut

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd performs in Oslo, Norway.
Nigel Waldron/Getty Images
June 25, 2013 10:55 AM ET

Pink Floyd's three surviving members have reunited to pen an op-ed for USA Today accusing Pandora of trying to rip off artists over royalties from online radio. "It's a matter of principle for us," Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason wrote.

The Internet radio service is currently asking Congress to cut musicians' pay for digital radio plays by 85 percent. While a similar campaign failed last year – thanks in part to a letter signed by more than 125 musicians including Pink Floyd, Billy Joel and Rihanna – this time around Pandora is reaching out to artists and asking them to sign a letter of support for Internet radio. But according to the members of Pink Floyd, the letter does not mention the massive royalty cut, and instead reads: "We are all fervent advocates for the fair treatment of artists."

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"Fine print is one thing," Waters, Gilmour and Mason write. "But 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."

The trio went on to chide Pandora for complaining about how much it pays for royalties, pointing out the service's impressive growth in the past two years – their IPO raised $235 million and they've doubled their number of listeners – and added, "a business that exists to deliver music can't really complain that its biggest cost is music."

The members of Pink Floyd closed their piece by saying there is room for compromise and that they hoped Pandora and artists could work together to find common ground on the royalty issue (including finding an end to AM/FM radio's exemption for such fees). "But," they conclude, "tricking artists into signing a confusing petition without explaining what they are really being asked to support only poisons the well."

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