[Note- I'm posting the text and not link to the Burt Bacharach article because it's a 'for pay' link and won't work for you.]
The article below, written for the Wall St. Journal by Burt Bacharach, details how difficult it is for songwriters to make money from online song services like Pandora. What I'm trying to tell musicians I know is that the payoff is a lot better with Google Adsense (which places ads in Youtube videos and on free Google Blogs) than with Pandora or I-Tunes downloads. One artist mentioned below got $800 for 12 million plays on Pandora. I'm not successful, obviously, but for years I've consistently averaged about $1 in earnings for every 700 pageviews on my blogs or $1 for every 400 views of my Youtube videos. This ratio seems to jibe with people who are actually making a living from the same Adsense system. Going by this, if one of my 3 minute videos was viewed 12 million times I would make $30,000 from Google Adsense, instead of $800 from Pandora for the same. When my videos are longer (say 8 minutes) the payoff is double because the minutes watched is the key. It just makes me think that musicians should all have their own free Google blog where they place Youtube videos of their music. The video can be as simple as a screen shot of the song title. Just a thought.
Burt Bacharach: What the Songwritin
g World Needs Now Something to replace federal control over how much composers get paid.
Jan. 22, 2014 7:12 p.m. ET
I am a songwriter—one of the fortunate ones who has earned a living creating melodies that have resonated with audiences for decades. A case in court this week spotlights the question of whether others can thrive writing music in the future.
Like almost every songwriter, I struggled for years, endured many rejections and had to borrow rent money from my dad. My first office at New York's Brill Building, which was the hub of the songwriting world, was so small that I barely had room for an upright piano and an air conditioner that didn't work in a window that couldn't open.
In 1956, Syd Shaw and I wrote "Warm and Tender," which Johnny Mathis recorded. It became the "B" side of Johnny's first hit, "It's Not For Me to Say." Our "Warm and Tender" didn't get much radio play—but because our song was on the flip side of all the 45-rpm records that had Johnny's hit on the "A" side, we were paid whenever the single was sold in record stores. Today, there are few record stores. No 45s. No B sides. And far fewer people who want to own recordings in physical form. On the upside, there are millions of people experiencing music in more ways than ever before.
Online and mobile services offer great opportunities for the next generation of creators. But despite new technology, it will always be hard to write a hit and the majority of songwriters will struggle to make a living—especially because the law is not in tune with the digital revolution.
Today, many songwriters are being denied fair compensation as a result of antiquated regulations that were conceived over 70 years ago for a different world. Songwriters are especially disadvantaged because we are governed by outdated settlements between the Justice Department and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, better known as Ascap, and Broadcast Music Inc., or BMI.
These two organizations negotiate and collect fees for songwriters from businesses that play our music, like radio stations, concert venues and digital services. The settlements are consent decrees, legally binding contracts that are enforced in federal court.
The 1941 consent decree with Ascap and the subsequent one with BMI were written when vinyl records were the hot new technology. They were deemed necessary to ensure that these leading licensers charged reasonable rates for the use of the music and lyrics played on AM radio, in restaurants and bars and other public places.
Under the consent decrees, Ascap and BMI are required to grant licenses to anyone who asks, as soon as they ask. When the parties can't agree upon a price, federal judges are the arbiters of the value of our work—instead of the marketplace—and judges set the rates without knowing what deals might be struck in a free market. These rules were last revised before the introduction of the iPod and a world of ubiquitous headphones where anyone can access 30 million tracks through any mobile device.
As music embraces the digital transition, it seems obvious that the anachronistic way songwriters and composers are remunerated should evolve, too. This is especially necessary in the wake of recent court interpretations of the consent decrees that perpetuate the devaluation of our work.
Although Internet radio didn't exist when those decrees were crafted, the decrees apply to the online radio service Pandora, which has a market cap of over $6 billion. The result is that songwriters earn about 8 cents for every 1,000 times Pandora plays their song. If Pandora plays a song 10 million times, it gives the writers $800. Imagine, in one quarter in 2012, Pandora paid songwriter Linda Perry only $349.16—despite playing Christina Aguilera's recording of her song "Beautiful" 12.7 million times.
The consent decrees are supposed to guarantee us "reasonable fees," but these aren't remotely reasonable. In fact, this week Ascap is in a rate-court trial with Pandora governed by those decrees, where a judge, rather than the market, will have to determine what songwriters are paid for the use of their work.
As songwriters, we want these new digital services to succeed. But they exist because of our music—and those who create the music deserve to be fairly compensated. I am not sure a young writer can survive in the online and mobile world restrained by a compensation regime that couldn't fathom "streams" that come from "clouds." We live in a free-market economy and should be able to negotiate rates that sustain a marketplace where both services and creators can thrive.
Only the Justice Department and the affected parties can agree to amend the consent decrees. I hope they will do so, so aspiring creators can earn a livelihood while enriching music fans everywhere.
Mr. Bacharach, a songwriter and composer, has won eight Grammys, three Academy Awards and an Emmy.