Universal Music faces backlash over Pandora royalty changes

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In the dynamic landscape of the music industry, the way artists receive royalties is a critical aspect of their livelihood. Recently, Universal Music, one of the industry’s major players, implemented a significant change in how it pays royalties to artists from Pandora, a popular music streaming platform. This unexpected policy shift has raised concerns among artist managers and performers alike, leaving many heritage artists in a precarious financial position.

The Silent Transition

One of the most striking aspects of this change is the lack of formal communication from Universal Music. It appears that the new policy was introduced without prior notice or consultation with the affected artists and their representatives. As a result, a considerable number of Universal-signed artists were caught off guard, unaware that their earnings from Pandora would now be calculated and paid differently.

The Previous System

To understand the impact of this policy change, it’s essential to first grasp the previous system. Universal Music, along with other record labels that had direct licensing arrangements with Pandora, used to allow the performer’s share of income to flow through a collecting society called SoundExchange. This arrangement followed industry-standard rates and provided artists with a reliable source of income.

The Current Approach

Under the new policy, Universal Music treats Pandora income like any other streaming income. This means that the royalties paid to artists may not be as lucrative as they were under the previous system. The change has significant implications for the artists, especially those who have come to rely on their SoundExchange royalties to make ends meet.

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Impact on Heritage Artists

Heritage artists, in particular, are among the hardest hit by this policy change. Many of these artists, who have contributed significantly to the music industry’s legacy, depend on their SoundExchange earnings to support themselves in their later years. The sudden reduction in income can be financially devastating, leaving them struggling to cover essential expenses.

The Criticism

The lack of transparency and communication regarding the policy shift has drawn sharp criticism from various quarters. Artist managers and representatives have expressed their frustration over the unilateral decision made by Universal Music. They argue that such a significant change in the royalty payment structure should have been discussed with the affected parties, allowing for a smoother transition and mitigation of financial hardships.


In the ever-evolving music industry, changes in royalty payment policies can have a profound impact on artists’ lives. Universal Music’s recent decision to alter the way it pays royalties to artists from Pandora has left many in a state of uncertainty and concern. The abrupt transition, coupled with the lack of clear communication, has raised valid questions about the fairness and transparency of such decisions.

As the industry continues to adapt to the digital age, it is essential for record labels and streaming platforms to consider the welfare of the artists who contribute to the creation of music. While business decisions are inevitable, open dialogue and collaboration with artists and their representatives can help ensure a more equitable and sustainable future for all stakeholders in the music ecosystem.

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