Rodney Jerkins will be considered even more of a hero amongst his fellow producers and songwriters when they see this.
The four-time Grammy winner, otherwise known as Darkchild, has worked with many global icons: from Mariah Carey to Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Destiny’s Child and even Michael Jackson.
His remix of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me was a key reason for the Brit’s own recent Grammy haul.
But like many ‘behind the scenes’ creatives, Jerkins has been left very unimpressed by the weeny royalty payments he’s seeing from Pandora in the US, despite the platform’s 81.5m monthly audience.
In fact, that’s a bit of an understatement: at the recent Code/Media conference in California, Jerkins told Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren that after playing a key role in countless global hits, “it’s kind of embarrassing to receive these cheques that can’t even take care of our family’s mortgage”.
And he told him this live, on camera – as you can see below from 29 minutes 35 seconds.
Perhaps the coolest thing about Jerkins’ question from the audience is that he isn’t as furious or incomprehensible as he arguably has every right to be.
His line of query is calm, lucid and very clear: what is with these ridiculously small songwriter payments?
“It’s kind of embarrassing to receive these pandora cheques, that can’t even take care of our family’s mortgage.”
Westergren’s replies become increasingly long-winded before the Q&A’s host, Walt Mossberg, wraps things up pronto.
Jerkins accuses the Pandora exec of giving him “the runaround” – just as he says YouTube’s Robert Kyncl did in an earlier session.
He cites recent data that showed Pharrell Williams received $250,000 for Happy as an artist last year – but as a producer/songwriter, picked up just $2,700 from 43 million plays.
“What are you guys going to do to change the model so songwriters and producers — the content creators — get properly paid?” asks Jerkins.
Westergren points to US federal laws and much-debated consent decrees for the reason why songwriters earn less from music than artists and labels, commenting that Pandora “doesn’t really have a dog in that fight”.
He reaffirms that Pandora is “giving 50% of our revenue back to the industry” and that he “doesn’t know what more to do”.
Of course, what Pandora is actually ‘doing’ is attempting to push down the statutory rates it has to pay to music rights-holders in future.
Jerkins, though, isn’t having any of it.
“Your answer is very similar to what the guy from YouTube said,” he tells Westergren, “and I feel like it’s the run-around.
“Pandora pays more than YouTube… but I think once you embrace the creative community, the writers is where the actual content begins.”
Music Business Worldwide