Westergren's squabble over royalties has chafed at raw spots in a music world wary of artists getting scammed. There have been recriminations and accusations, dissing and dishing. Once Westergren embodied nothing more than the struggling musician, the long-shot entrepreneur. Now he's confronted by critics who want to portray him as the guy who crossed over, the suit — even if he seldom wears one. This is how the game gets played at this level, when you've made it, when you matter. Will it be Musician Tim or Wall Street Tim?
Internet radio pays artists exponentially more for each song played than satellite and cable radio — services such as SiriusXM, Music Choice and Muzak. Pandora has long sought to alter that imbalance. Westergren wants Congress to lower the amount Pandora pays — arguing that the reduction would leave more money to innovate and expand its business. Ultimately artists would benefit from the increased exposure, especially the vast number of performers who don't get airtime on AM or FM stations, he argues. They might even someday create a "musician's middle-class," he argues.
A coalition of performers and record companies is trying to block Pandora's plan, accusing Westergren of "double talk" and "dishonesty," and of greedily hurting artists by trying to drastically cut the compensation they receive.
When you're Tim Westergren, and you've got more than 69 million active users listening to more than 1.5 billion of hours of music in a month and your product is embedded into the dashboard of 80 or so new car models, you don't have to confine legislative lobbying to Washington (and political fund-raisers). Instead you go on the road, where his company forged an unusually intimate bond with its customers, hundreds of whom show up for each of his town halls. If he's going to win, he'll do it in places such as the Avenue D Jazz and Blues Lounge on a rainy night in Miami.