When Artists Are Responsible For Their Revenue

There’s an article on DMN from about a week ago about a songwriter Ellen Shipley. She’s complaining about the amount of royalties she receives as co-writer of a song that has been played 3 million times on Pandora recently. The problem is, she’s mad at Pandora, when her gripe is really with SoundExchange and the record companies. They’re the ones that decide what happens to the performance royalties that get paid by Pandora, and how they get parsed out to performers versus songwriters and co-songwriters.

I’ll bet someone from her record company called her right up to explain that to her..

There’s been a line of artists complaining recently about the paltry amounts of money they are receiving from Pandora and other streaming services, prompted by the proposed Internet Radio Fairness Act. I’ve written about that, and would like to leave that debate to one side for the moment and talk more about the responsibility that the musician has to become their own business, and take responsibility for their own income, especially if they are unhappy with the size of the checks that are arriving in the mail.

I started thinking about this after I read an article on NPR’s blog about some musicians that are promoting themselves and getting paid for their performances on Kickstarter and similar platforms. Singer and performer Amanda Palmer was one of the first to use Kickstarter and raised over a million dollars for her new album. Other bands, like A House For Lions, produced a video, as well as t-shirts and other promotional items that they sell online through Ignition Deck. It’s a lot of work, but they consider it part of their business.

Artists like Amanda Palmer and A House For Lions aren’t just sitting around waiting for their check to arrive in the mail, and then complaining about it. They are managing their businesses which happen to be music and asking their audiences to pay for their product which happens to be songs. Here’s the video that A House For Lions made to promote their album and ask their fans to donate:

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