Blake Morgan – An Excellent Independent Musician Stokes Pandora Controversy

Per the video selections at the bottom of this page, Blake Morgan is currently right at the top of my go-to “chill out playlist.” Morgan delivers a uniquely rich acoustic sound – not exactly melancholy but absolutely tinged with an emotional edge. Perfect tunes for New York City in autumn.

Because I don’t know all the specifics, I’ll withhold direct comment on Morgan’s current (and somewhat unusual) fight with the highly popular Internet radio service Pandora over the website’s decision to lower the royalties paid to participating artists. Nevertheless, it’s well worth watching this recent interview in which Morgan cogently explains his side of the argument. I did use the word “unusual” purposefully, however, and that’s because most artists have overwhelmingly embraced Internet radio (especially Pandora) for several reasons:

(1) The Recording Industry Association of America has unsuccessfully tried for years to force the National Association of Broadcasters (the industry association for terrestrial radio) to compensate artists for the use of their music. In contrast, Internet radio (in part to clearly distinguish itself from earlier piracy-models like Napster) began paying artists almost from its inception. While some private deals have now been reached between various record labels and traditional broadcasters, the RIAA’s quest to pass its hoped-for across-the-board legislation remains stuck in Congressional limbo.

(2) Internet radio (and related platforms) have proven themselves especially helpful to independent musicians who frequently find them themselves locked out of terrestrial radio’s highly limited playlists. Services like Pandora are much more than just a source of revenue: they’ve become an entirely new pathway toward increasing album sales and promoting concerts.

(3) Internet radio also provides independent artists with a valuable source of metrics – e.g., how many times people “like” their music, specific number of listens, specific number of personalized radio stations, determination of relative song popularity, audience demographics, etc. Possessing that kind of data can be invaluable when attempting to secure a record deal or gain access to a concert venue.

Thus, while Morgan is understandably upset by Pandora’s decision to lower rates, his remains a minority position (at least publicly), in large part because the side-benefits of Internet exposure are still overwhelmingly beneficial. I will be curious to see where this dispute ends up, however, both as a music lover and someone who has always been concerned that the financial realities facing most musicians are often stunningly bleak – See, for example, this recent festival in which numerous artists signed up to perform – not for money – but simply to receive basic medical and dental care that they otherwise couldn’t afford . . .

And on that cheerful note, let’s play some tunes (for free):


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