We Create Music Blog
June 09, 2014

Shannon Hurley: "We Must Respect and Value Songwriters"

By Shannon Hurley

Shannon Hurley

Shannon Hurley

You probably don’t know me by name, but maybe you’ve heard my music. If you’ve picked out pens at Office Depot, scored some finds at the 99 Cents Only store, or eaten lunch at Coco’s, chances are one of my songs was playing over the speakers. I am one of the many independent songwriters that gets worldwide airplay through background music services like DMX and Muzak, as well as internet radio stations like Pandora.

No doubt it is hard to make a living as a songwriter. I have made sacrifices in my personal life because I love making music and it means everything to me. I am grateful to have had many placements in TV and film, but these days, I'm concerned about the digital performance rates that streaming services pay to songwriters and publishers through ASCAP and the other PROs.

Our careers are in jeopardy due to the greediness of companies that make millions but pay offensively low royalties to songwriters. I’ve already seen DMX and Muzak decrease their rates substantially. The next big fight was Pandora, which went to court with ASCAP to lower the rates they pay to songwriters like me

I was one of the first artists to jump on to Pandora Radio back in 2006. I saw opportunity for people to discover new music and create stations based on the songs and artists they enjoy. I was excited to be a part of this new technology and advancement of the digital musical age.

Smash cut to 2014, when Pandora's royalty rates reflect nothing of the company’s success. This is a brand built entirely by songwriters and musicians (its founder Tim Westergren proclaims that he is a musician, too), but songwriters are getting paid a depressingly low rate of eight cents per 1000 plays. The financial chasm between Pandora's CEOs and the songwriters on which their business is based is astonishing. In 2013, Brian McAndrews (CEO) earned $29,167,388 and Tim Westergren (founders) earned $11,685,277.

Meanwhile...in one quarter, my song “Beg Steal Borrow" (written 100% by me) played 2.86 million times on Pandora. I got $93.42 from ASCAP.

Shannon Hurley statement

My song “Run” from Lovers & Poets played 3.56 million times on Pandora. I got $88.08 from ASCAP for my 90% writer share.


Without the right to earn a fair royalty rate, I worry that many working songwriters (including myself) will have to find another permanent line of work and music will be relegated to a part-time hobby. Streaming is an increasingly important way for listeners to consume music (according to Digital Music News, streaming increased 103% in 2013, while downloads took a down turn for the first year, ever). If we don't regulate these rates now, songwriters are doomed.

This is why it is so important for songwriters to stand up for their rights and let their voices be heard. Luckily, ASCAP is doing just that. With the power of over 500,000 songwriters, composers and publishers, they are helping to bring awareness and positive change in Washington, and to negotiate fair rates in the courts.

A bill called the Songwriter Equity Act was recently introduced in Congress that will let ASCAP negotiate fair rates for songwriters getting played on services like Pandora. There's another one that was just introduced in the senate, too. If you are a songwriter, we need your help to get these bills passed.

To ensure the future of music, we simply must have fair compensation. Please write to your Member of Congress about the Songwriter Equity Act. The government needs to recognize that we don't have proper rules in place that allow creators to get paid fairly in the digital age. We must respect and value songwriters. We must honor their skill and creativity, or we will lose music entirely. Think about it: without music, the world would be a dull place.


Shannon Hurley is an ASCAP singer-songwriter whose songs have been heard on The Young and the Restless, 90210, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, and Giuliana and Bill, among others. She has released three albums under her own name and one as Lovers & Poets, an electronica pop project composed of herself and her bassist husband Ben Eisen. Hurley has also contributed vocals to some of the biggest trance releases in the last few years, including "Monday Morning Madness" with Alex M.O.R.P.H. and "Sun Gone Down" with Protoculture. Find her on the web at www.shannonhurley.com.

Click here to learn more about the Songwriter Equity Act.