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Rihanna, Billy Joel and More at Odds With Pandora Over Compensation

Group of 125 musicians sign letter opposing 'Internet Radio Fairness Act'

November 14, 2012 4:10 PM ET
Billy Joel and Rihanna
Billy Joel and Rihanna
Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Billy Joel, Rihanna and Missy Elliott are among 125 musicians who have signed an open letter opposing Pandora Media Inc.'s attempts to change the way artists are compensated, Reuters reports. The group says the "Internet Radio Fairness Act" would cut royalties that artists receive from plays online by 85 percent. Pandora has been lobbying legislators in Congress to pass the bill.

The State of Streaming Music

"Why is the company asking Congress once again to step in and gut the royalties that thousands of musicians rely upon? That's not fair and that's not how partners work together," reads the letter, released by musicFirst, a coalition of artists and business people; and SoundExchange, a non-profit that collects royalties on behalf of musicians. The letter will be published in this week's issue of Billboard.

Pandora's unhappiness also stems from their success – more customers and more plays means the company must pay more in overall licensing and rights fees to stream the music. Pandora and other music services, including Clear Channel Communications, are pushing for the Internet Radio Fairness Act, arguing that other content providers, such as cable and satellite, pay different rates for rights.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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