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More than 100 artists sign letter criticizing Pandora's royalty position

Musicians weigh in on the Internet Radio Fairness Act debate.

The New York Times reports that a diverse group of artists headlined by Pink Floyd, Robert Plant, Brian Wilson, George Clinton, Nas, Rihanna, and Missy Elliott have signed a letter in opposition to Pandora’s preferred digital royalty legislation.

“We are big fans of Pandora. That’s why we helped give the company a discount on rates for the past decade,” says the letter. “Why is the company asking Congress once again to step in and gut the royalties that thousands of musicians rely upon? That’s not fair and that’s not how partners work together.”

The letter comes via the MusicFirst Coalition, a group that represents record companies, a major musicians’ union and others. It will appear in the next issue of Billboard magazine, paid for by MusicFirst and royalty middleman SoundExchange.

Pandora’s founder, Tim Westergren, has been vocal in support of the Internet Radio Fairness Act. In response to the coalition’s letter, Westergren said in a statement that for the Internet radio industry to survive, a “permanent fix” to the rate-setting process is needed. In 2007, Pandora lobbied for a discount on the rates, a temporary solution that will expire in 2015.

“Passage of the I.R.F.A. will mean more jobs in a sustainable industry, more choices for listeners, and more opportunities and revenue for working artists and their record labels,” Mr. Westergren said. “When the digital music sector is allowed to grow and innovate, everybody wins.” While the internet radio industry would be saved, the I.R.F.A. is expected to cut Pandora’s royalty payments to artists by up to 80%.

The House Judiciary Committee is set to hold hearings on the issue at the end of the month. Read the full letter and list of signees on the MusicFirst Coalition website.

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