Entertainment & Arts

Stars fight Pandora music site over royalties issue

Rihanna and Billy Joel
Image caption Rihanna and Billy Joel are among 125 musicians to sign the letter

Billy Joel, Rihanna and Missy Elliot are among the stars who have signed an open letter to US music site Pandora over possible changes to royalties.

The online streaming service is currently lobbying lawmakers in US Congress to change regulations governing how artists are compensated.

Approximately 125 musicians have signed the letter opposing the new bill, called the Internet Radio Fairness Act.

The letter claims the new act will cut royalties by as much as 85 per cent.

US music industry magazine Billboard will publish the open letter this weekend, signed by musicFirst, a coalition of musicians and business people, and SoundExchange, a non-profit organisation that collects royalties for musicians.

It reads: "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 current manner in which musicians get paid for internet streaming of their songs has been a thorny issue for the US-based Pandora Media Inc, and other streaming sites around the world such as Spotify.

In 2009 a report published in Swedish newspaper Expressen claimed that one million plays of Lady Gaga's track Poker Face on Spotify had actually earned the singer just $167 (£105).

However, Spotify called the figure out of date, misleading and factually inaccurate.

Image caption Pandora says the rates internet radio outlets are charged for the right to stream music are "unfair"

Pandora was founded more than a decade ago and is mostly supported by advertising, but the more customers it gains, the more money it has to pay overall for rights to stream music.

The company has joined forces with other music services such as Clear Channel Communications to support the bill on the grounds that different providers, such as satellite and cable, pay different rates.

Pandora said on its website: "The current law penalises new media and is astonishingly unfair to internet radio.

"We are asking for our listeners' support to help end the discrimination against internet radio. It's time for Congress to stop picking winners, level the playing field and establish a technology-neutral standard."

In October, it said its share of total US radio listening was almost 7 percent, up from around 4 percent during the same period last year.

The Internet Radio Fairness Act is a bi-partisan bill sponsored by US representatives Jason Chaffetz and Jared Polis, along with Senator Ron Wyden.

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