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Coverage of Pandora Borders on Criminal

Stocks in this article: P

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If nobody else is willing (or able) to step up, that leaves me in the position of having to highlight the inaccuracies as they come up in this whole Pandora (P) music royalty discussion.

For some reason, Business Insider decided to republish a Digital Music News blog post from November 2012 where Ellen Shipley, the woman who co-wrote Belinda Carlisle's hit Heaven is a Place on Earth, pointed out that she made less than $40 in songwriting royalties from Pandora for more than three million spins of the song over three months on the service.

Here it is straight from BI's homepage -- a November 2012 piece republished today, nearly a year later, on July 8, 2013:

It's outrageously lame that BI decides to repost obviously old news just to piggy back on the recent David Lowery/Cracker controversy. It's even worse that neither outlet -- the original rag, Digital Music News, and the usually-solid, Business Insider -- corrected the basic factual errors in Shipley's post.

This just supports something I have to beat into the ground: Don't believe what you read on this story; it's littered with half-truths, outright lies, misinformation and very little context.

Shipley begins her rant with a valid point:

It is interesting and very disturbing that no one is addressing the SONGWRITER's situation in this Pandora debacle.

I completely agree. And that's why I have reached out to the songwriter community on the issue. In fact, I am putting the finishing touches on an article based on my conversation with hall of fame songwriter and ASCAP President Paul Williams.

But then Shipley discredits herself by leaving out facts and showing off a scary misunderstanding of the situation. She is clearly spitting out talking points she knows nothing about.

First, she "co-wrote" the song, but doesn't mention that that means she had to share the portion of the overall royalty songwriters receive from Pandora (and others). "Co-wrote" implies that one or more others received credit for the creation. So, if two people wrote the song, Pandora paid closer to $80 to the songwriters; not much, but again it's not about your opinion, it's about getting the facts straight.

Second, and even worse, Shipley says of Pandora:

AND they want us to take an EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT CUT!!!

Everybody -- from Shipley to Digital Music News to Business Insider -- needs to get their talking points straight!

The 85-percent pay cut propaganda refers to performance royalties, not songwriter royalties. Two different things, though it appears neither Shipley, DMN or BI knows this or, for some reason, is willing to point it out. So much for mixing hard-hitting headlines and provocative prose with actual journalism and reporting. I'm all for in-your-face, attention grabbers -- I'm not ashamed to say I practice the craft daily -- but you have to bring the goods, i.e. have some idea of what the hell you're talking about!

I provide some perspective and sanity on the 85-percent pay cut hysteria in Are Pandora's Attackers Lying, Being Disingenuous or Just Plain Stupid?

It should be illegal to spread the type of misinformation these guys spread ... not once and not from just one organization, but from two different entities, eight months apart, without a fact checker or a person doing anything resembling real reporting in sight. They print it. It gets Tweeted and Retweeted and, before you know it, the situation becomes an even bigger debacle than it was in the first place because few people understand it.

And with the media as their guide, how can we expect large numbers of a busy population to wrap their heads around a complicated situation you absolutely cannot boil down to black and white?


-- Written by Rocco Pendola in New York City

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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