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Pandora's box of Issa staffer's freebies

Embattled streaming music service from Oakland stages Manhattan junket

Darrell Issa
Darrell Issa

One of the earliest players in the streaming music business is facing an uncertain future and locked in a money war with recording artists. What to do?

Hire a Wall Street banker to shop the firm around, and invite a staffer for San Diego congressman Darrell Issa up to Manhattan for a quick overnight stay.

That, at least, is the case with Pandora Media, Inc., which has seen its stock fall from a lofty $39.43 two years ago this month to about $10 these days.

"Pandora is working with Morgan Stanley to meet with potential buyers, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity," reported the New York Times on February 11. "The talks are preliminary and may not lead to a deal, the people said."

The Oakland-based outfit is still the nation's leader in number of listeners, with 32 percent compared to Spotify's 13 percent, with iHeart and Apple Music, tied for third at 12 percent, according to one recent account.

But making money has proven difficult, noted the Motley Fool in a February 26 post headlined, "Is this the end for Pandora?"

"Pandora pays a large percentage of the money it takes in to cover song royalty fees," the item notes. "That cost goes up or down based on how much music users listen to. The other problem Pandora has is that it's very expensive for it to acquire customers since it does not have a user base to market to like Apple does."

As for potential buyers of the company, adds the Fool, "Perhaps one of the wireless carriers would be a fit or even a cable company. Being part of a brand which has customers that could be marketed to would cheaply solve at least part of the Pandora profitability problem."

Enter the office of Republican Issa, a car-alarm mogul, self-styled congressional tech guru, and member of the House Judiciary committee, where he is chairman of the subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.

Issa legislative director James Tyler Grimm set off for New York on February 18, noting on his disclosure filing, "The trip will inform me and other Judiciary staffers about key issues related to copyright reform and other intellectual property issues."

According to the disclosure filing for the lobbyist-paid New York junket, Griffin got $140.75 for travel, $165 to cover lodging, and $101.23 for meals, for a grand total of $406.98.

He was put up for the night at the Westin New York Grand Central. "Our prime Midtown East location makes it easy to experience Manhattan," says the hotel's website. "Just two blocks from Grand Central Terminal and the United Nations, we're only minutes from other iconic sites such as Bryant Park, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue shopping."

Locations and details of the Pandora-hosted dinner and other evening activities were not provided.

Presentations, according to a trip itinerary, were directed at Pandora's bottom line, including "discussions to provide better understanding to Staff, who regulate licensing and regulation on rate setting, why Pandora and other music services are defined as non-interactive streaming services...and treated differently than on-demand or "interactive" streaming services."

Another important item on the agenda: "What role does Congress play in the future of Music."

Pending bills discussed with the "senior staff of Pandora," according to the document, were the Songwriter Equity Act and the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act.

Meghan Trainor's songwriter made $5679 in internet streaming royalties from "All About That Bass"

Last September, an author of Meghan Trainor's "All About that Bass" told Issa and other members of the Judiciary Committee that he had received just $5679 in streaming revenue for the global hit.

"For a song like 'All About That Bass,' that I wrote, which had 178 million streams," Kevin Kadish complained. "I mean $5,679? That's my share. That's as big a song as a songwriter can have in their career and No. 1 in 78 countries. But you're making $5,600. How do you feed your family?"

The Songwriter Equity measure was introduced last year by Republican Doug Collins of Georgia.

"You can tell songwriters and publishers in Nashville they'll have a friend who's going to fight for this bill in Doug Collins," he told a Tennessee newspaper.

About three years ago, Issa was among authors of the Internet Radio Fairness Act, commonly known as the Pandora bill, which favored the firm by reducing online music royalty rates, triggering widespread artist protests.

The company subsequently decided not to pursue that effort, according to a December 2013 account by Billboard.

Because Pandora is a federally registered lobbyist, participants in the New York trip were limited to "officially connected activity on one calendar day only," according to a February 16 letter from House ethics committee chairman Charles Dent.

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Darrell Issa
Darrell Issa

One of the earliest players in the streaming music business is facing an uncertain future and locked in a money war with recording artists. What to do?

Hire a Wall Street banker to shop the firm around, and invite a staffer for San Diego congressman Darrell Issa up to Manhattan for a quick overnight stay.

That, at least, is the case with Pandora Media, Inc., which has seen its stock fall from a lofty $39.43 two years ago this month to about $10 these days.

"Pandora is working with Morgan Stanley to meet with potential buyers, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity," reported the New York Times on February 11. "The talks are preliminary and may not lead to a deal, the people said."

The Oakland-based outfit is still the nation's leader in number of listeners, with 32 percent compared to Spotify's 13 percent, with iHeart and Apple Music, tied for third at 12 percent, according to one recent account.

But making money has proven difficult, noted the Motley Fool in a February 26 post headlined, "Is this the end for Pandora?"

"Pandora pays a large percentage of the money it takes in to cover song royalty fees," the item notes. "That cost goes up or down based on how much music users listen to. The other problem Pandora has is that it's very expensive for it to acquire customers since it does not have a user base to market to like Apple does."

As for potential buyers of the company, adds the Fool, "Perhaps one of the wireless carriers would be a fit or even a cable company. Being part of a brand which has customers that could be marketed to would cheaply solve at least part of the Pandora profitability problem."

Enter the office of Republican Issa, a car-alarm mogul, self-styled congressional tech guru, and member of the House Judiciary committee, where he is chairman of the subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.

Issa legislative director James Tyler Grimm set off for New York on February 18, noting on his disclosure filing, "The trip will inform me and other Judiciary staffers about key issues related to copyright reform and other intellectual property issues."

According to the disclosure filing for the lobbyist-paid New York junket, Griffin got $140.75 for travel, $165 to cover lodging, and $101.23 for meals, for a grand total of $406.98.

He was put up for the night at the Westin New York Grand Central. "Our prime Midtown East location makes it easy to experience Manhattan," says the hotel's website. "Just two blocks from Grand Central Terminal and the United Nations, we're only minutes from other iconic sites such as Bryant Park, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue shopping."

Locations and details of the Pandora-hosted dinner and other evening activities were not provided.

Presentations, according to a trip itinerary, were directed at Pandora's bottom line, including "discussions to provide better understanding to Staff, who regulate licensing and regulation on rate setting, why Pandora and other music services are defined as non-interactive streaming services...and treated differently than on-demand or "interactive" streaming services."

Another important item on the agenda: "What role does Congress play in the future of Music."

Pending bills discussed with the "senior staff of Pandora," according to the document, were the Songwriter Equity Act and the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act.

Meghan Trainor's songwriter made $5679 in internet streaming royalties from "All About That Bass"

Last September, an author of Meghan Trainor's "All About that Bass" told Issa and other members of the Judiciary Committee that he had received just $5679 in streaming revenue for the global hit.

"For a song like 'All About That Bass,' that I wrote, which had 178 million streams," Kevin Kadish complained. "I mean $5,679? That's my share. That's as big a song as a songwriter can have in their career and No. 1 in 78 countries. But you're making $5,600. How do you feed your family?"

The Songwriter Equity measure was introduced last year by Republican Doug Collins of Georgia.

"You can tell songwriters and publishers in Nashville they'll have a friend who's going to fight for this bill in Doug Collins," he told a Tennessee newspaper.

About three years ago, Issa was among authors of the Internet Radio Fairness Act, commonly known as the Pandora bill, which favored the firm by reducing online music royalty rates, triggering widespread artist protests.

The company subsequently decided not to pursue that effort, according to a December 2013 account by Billboard.

Because Pandora is a federally registered lobbyist, participants in the New York trip were limited to "officially connected activity on one calendar day only," according to a February 16 letter from House ethics committee chairman Charles Dent.

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Comments
1

Last December, Pandora signed multi-year licensing agreements with ASCAP (which I belong to) and BMI for a combined 20 million+ musical works. This increased song royalties for songwriters and publishers. That means more money for Pandora to pay out; oh boo hoo! They have been vastly UNDERpaying for many years. By the way, Sen. Orrin Hatch is on the songwriters' side; he's a published songwriter himself. Right now there are just too many online music companies fighting for a piece of the pie. It's survival of the fittest. I personally only use Spotify.

March 17, 2016

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