Reported by Liku Zelleke
Pharrell Williams might be a “happy” guy, but whatever is keeping his mood afloat doesn’t include the small amount of money he made for writing the song.
In the first quarter of 2014, “Happy” was played over 43 million times on the online radio website Pandora. The amount that was paid to Pharrell for publishing and songwriter royalties? A measly $2,700.
Let’s not forget that “Happy” won Pharrell Grammy nominations for Best Music Video and Best Pop Solo Performance. It was a global hit that created a barrage of copy-dance videos from countries across the world. Some of those who made the videos were even arrested and sentenced to serve prison time – even though the sentences were later suspended.
And yet, Pharrell was paid peanuts for his work because, according to a letter from Sony/ATV CEO Marty Bandier, artists were paid $60 for every million streams of their works.
In the letter that was obtained by Digital Music News, Bandier says that short streaming earnings is a “totally unacceptable situation and one that cannot be allowed to continue.”
“We at Sony/ATV want these digital music services to be successful because they are a great way for music fans to listen to music and have the potential to generate significant new revenues for everyone,” Bandier wrote. “However, this success should not come at the expense of songwriters whose songs are essential for these services to exist and thrive.”
But not everyone seems to agree. Fusion’s Rob Wile, quoting an industry analyst, says Pharrell’s real figure for “Happy” streams would be closer $25,000 when taking performance rights payments into account.
True or not, one thing is certain: more and more artists are finding it hard to make a living off of their works, especially when it comes to online streaming services. Just recently, pop singer Taylor Swift asked that all her songs be dropped from Spotify’s menu in protest of the low pay and under-appreciation of artists’ works.
It remains unseen whether more artists will follow in Swift’s footsteps or if streaming sites will starting paying artists their dues.