Ray Hair, president of the American Federation of Musicians, argues in a Billboard bulletin that the licensing deal between record label Naxos and the streaming service Pandora is unfair to artists. ‘This is just the latest example of exploitation toward artists and musicians that Congress and AFM seek to prevent,’ he writes. Read his full argument below.
Guest Post: Is Pandora’s Licensing Deal With Classical Label
Naxos Unfair to Professional Artists?
BY RAY HAIR, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MUSICIANS
Members of the American Federation of Musicians (“AFM”) continue to be deeply
concerned about greed and profiteering in the music industry, at the expense of those who
create music. Professional musicians deserve to be treated better. We make all the music,
but it seems like everyone else makes all the money.
We are alarmed by the agreement recently reached between Pandora and Naxos, the
world’s leading classical music label, on a multi-year US license for the entire Naxos
catalog. We were concerned when their joint announcement was notably silent on any
mention of fair and direct payment of royalties to artists. As AFM members who record
classical music are keenly aware, professional musicians receive royalties directly
and immediately when Pandora uses the statutory license. Pandora has repeatedly and
publicly boasted about the supposed benefit it provides to artists, including in their sworn
testimony to the House Judiciary Subcommittee, just a few months ago. They praised the
statutory licensing process as an efficient, transparent solution that “must be preserved,”
and specifically applauded the fact that the statutory license ensures that artists and
musicians “actually receive their fair share of the hundreds of millions of dollars in
royalties that services like Pandora pay each year.”
Indeed, direct pay to artists and musicians was supposedly a significant part of Pandora’s
agreement with Merlin, an independent consortium of record labels — there was an entire
paragraph in the Billboard article on the agreement about the fact that artists would still
be paid directly, even if they were on a label subject to that agreement. But nothing in the
Naxos announcement mentions anything about SoundExchange administering payment to
Under the law, 50 percent of performance royalties are paid to featured artists, session
musicians and background singers. The other 50 percent of the performance royalties are
paid to the owner of the sound recording (i.e., the owner of the “master”), which can be
a record label or an artist who owns their own masters. So when it comes to orchestral/
classical recordings, the revenue at stake in the Pandora/Naxos deal affects a far greater
number of musicians than what flows from traditional artist recordings, featuring a solo
artist or a group.
That’s why we ask: Where is the commitment from Pandora and Naxos to compensate
the artists and musicians who performed the music in the Naxos library? Have Pandora
and Naxos decided to dump the statutory license to hide the ball and cheat hardworking
artists and musicians out of royalties they’ve rightfully earned?
If so, it appears that Pandora and Naxos want the benefit of a statutory model only when
it suits them — except when they can make an extra buck at the expense of those who
actually make the music.
If Pandora and Naxos executives want to ensure that musicians receive their fair share of
payments, they should require that any direct deals be contingent on labels agreeing that
SoundExchange will continue to administer the artist payments according to the statutory
Unfortunately, this is just the latest example of exploitation toward artists and musicians
that Congress and AFM seek to prevent. When labels and music services deliberately
avoid the statutory license, they erode the value of everyartist. These dark deals hurt the
very people who perform the music that Pandora’s business depends on.
These are hardly the actions of an industry partner seeking to earn the trust and support of
hard working musicians. It sounds more like the same old song, second verse.
Professional musicians and our industry deserve better.
Ray Hair is president of the American Federation of Musicians.
Svetlana Lunkina, a prima ballerina who moved to Canada in 2012 after death threats were made against her film-producer husband, has officially severed her ties with the company. For the past two years, she has been on indefinite personal leave. She told Izvestia today that she was subjected to intrigues’ by the leadership. Previously, she alleged that the Bolshoi was ‘a giant brothel‘ where dancers were made to sleep with oligarchs in order to secure good roles.
We have been informed that Nicolas Sluss-Rodionov, chorus manager of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and a talented singer and organist, died last night at the age of 33. He was in a car crash on March 20 and had been in intensive care ever since.
Nic’s title was Production Assistant and Chorus Manager. He was scheduled to be the bass soloist in this weekend’s MSO Chorus concert.
In the April issue of Standpoint magazine, I have a stab at assessing who actually needs a new concert hall in the second decade of the 21st century. Paris has just built one, amid ongoing controversy. Munich has baulked. Warsaw has green-lit a project. And London has got a ‘feasibility study’.
But a good orchestral hall costs half a billion in hard currency and public support for a declining art form is getting harder to rally.
All agree, for instance, that Nouvel has built Paris a modern marvel (even if the architect removed his name from the building over its over-hasty completion). The questions are whether the new Philharmonie is worth the money—does it represent £300 million of added value?—and whether it is needed at all. Paris took a political decision to stop orchestral music at the Pleyel because its audience was ageing and bourgeois. The Philharmonie is meant to attract young couples who live around the city’s periphery. But can they afford the tickets? Will tourists find it? In an age when people access concerts online, regardless of acoustic distinction, can a new concert hall be justified at the expense of a children’s hospital or an old-age home?
The Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill has just posted a beautiful tribute in the Guardian to her beloved friend, whom she met in December 2011, while working together on the Metropolitan Opera Ring.
Maria was an incredible musician who you felt spoke directly to you – she was a true communicator. Her voice had a beautiful bronzed hue, full and round; the warmth of her personality always shone through. She loved singing, it was who she was. A more elegant and poised woman you couldn’t hope to find and yet underneath was someone whose laughter was deep, guttural and contagious, who loved cheesy pop music and had the stamina to dance all night.
Heidi Melton, the third friend in their group, remembers Maria on CNN here.
We hear from a very well-placed source that the New Yorker is refusing to publish a letter from the Metropolitan Opera that claims alleged inaccuracies in its recent feature on the company. The New Yorker is backing its reporter, as it should. The letter is signed by officers of the Board, but its language belongs identifiably to Gelb.
Although the New Yorker is highly regarded for the integrity of its reporting, James Stewart’s piece about the Met is seriously lacking in a number of ways. In the 72 hours prior to the closing of the piece, several hundred facts were checked for accuracy with the Met’s staff. Most were wrong. While many mistakes were corrected, the article still has numerous errors and misleading statements.
For example, Stewart cites various sources to confirm that opera ticket sales are generally up, except at the Met, which is denying reality. There have been numerous surveys, such as the 2014 LaPlaca Cohen study, that show tickets sales for opera and classical music have been flagging across the United States in recent years.
Stewart says the FY13 salary figures the Met cited during union negotiations for the orchestra were inflated by a season with unusually long operas when in fact average orchestra pay was at basically the same level as in the prior season: $196,000 in FY12 and $133,000 (sic) in FY13. While the unions and the Met struggled during last summer’s negotiations, they ultimately reached an agreement that have (sic) significantly lowered costs and that will enable the Met to wipe out its previous $22 million deficit. Stewart fails to make this connection.
Stewart’s article inaccurately states that the unions now have “oversight” over the Met, which is not the case. Rather, there is a contractual mechanism for verification that cost cutting and equality of sacrifice between unionised employees and administrative staff has been achieved.
Stewart quotes an honorary Met Board member who says that at Board meetings, ‘Now you just listen to Mr Gelb.’ Since the honorary Board member in question hasn’t attended a Board meeting in person since Mr Gelb became General Manager nine years ago, it seems unlikely that he would know.
Stewart attempts to give the impression that the Board is divided. In fact, the Board solidly supports Gelb and is united in its commitment to securing the future of grand opera, the Met and its employees.
William G. Morris
Chairman, Executive Committee
The Liceu in Barecelona has released video of Maria Radner as Erda, and Oleg Bryjak as Alberich, the roles they last sang in Siegfried on Saturday, before their tragic deaths in the Germanwings crash.
The highly-regarded music director of Bavarian State Opera has been telling German media that Bayreuth has demanded too much from him these past three years.
‘In a Bayreuth season I conduct 14 performances,’ he recounts – three complete Ring cycles, plus extras, four to six hours a night. ‘The next morning, every muscle hurts.’
He can’t remember what it’s like to take a summer holiday. July and August are taken up by Bayreuth. Two weeks into September the new season starts in Munich.
‘Two weeks is not long enough to recover. If Bayreuth had given me just one opera, I might have lasted five years.’
We are distressed to share news of the death, in his sleep, of the well-liked, modest and warmly adventurous New York pianist, Joseph Smith. He was 66 and had not been previously unwell.
His show “Joseph Smith’s Piano Bench” aired for two years on NPR’s Performance Today and his column, “Rare Finds,” appeared in Piano Today magazine from 1993. He was editor of eleven piano anthologies and made several recording, mostly of newly discovered works.
Benita Meshulam, a close friend, writes: ‘Joe was the most curious musician I have ever known, always looking for forgotten works, studying them thoroughly. He was interested not only in the works but the composers and investigated everything. He was a pianist who didn’t care about the condition of the pianos he performed on. It was his message that he wanted to get across–a real musician’s musician who lived and breathed his art. He was also the kindest and most generous colleague.’
He made an appearance in Ethan Hawke’s recent movie ‘Seymour’, about his mentor, Seymour Bernstein.
Remember when Josh played his Strad at L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C., earning $32.17 in 43 minutes from seven passersby? It happened on January 12, 2007. Now your kids can read about it in The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Dusan Petricic (Annick Press, $19.95)
Los Angeles Opera is selling off star costumes this Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 330 S. Alameda St.
More than 1,000 costumes on 90 clothing racks, prices from $2 to $5,000. Full details here.
Gabriela Luján Maumus, 28, from Buenos Aires, was bass player in Asalto al Parque Zoológico (Zoo Assault), a rock band. She was flying home from a Spanish vacation with her boyfriend, Sebastián Gabriel Greco. Their names were released for publication last night.