Recent Articles

What Our 200 Million Registered Listeners Can Mean for Under-the-Radar Musicians

Every artist can remember the first time their music got played on radio. The impact of a local DJ adding the song in rotation, or even just a single spin is huge. For my band, it was KFOG in San Francisco, winter 1994. We were ecstatic. We didn’t get picked up for steady rotation, but for that night we felt like rock stars.

Twenty years later the single-minded quest for airplay remains the industry’s obsession, and for the vast majority of working artists, that quest still ends in failure. But that dynamic is changing. Beneath the radar, there is a sea change that is poised to fundamentally alter the equation for working musicians.

In the month of January of this year, Pandora played the music of more than 100,000 different artists. In that same period of time, the three largest broadcast radio stations in the country played a grand total of 297, 157 and 261 unique artists respectively. For the first time, thousands of working musicians, who have had virtually no terrestrial radioplay, are now on air. And they’re playing for big audiences.
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200 million strong!

We are very excited to announce today that Pandora has reached 200 million registered listeners!

When we launched in 2005, we hoped to create a new way to discover and enjoy music that was completely personalized for each and every listener.  We envisioned a time when artists of all kinds would thrive on radio, connecting with fans who loved exactly their kind of music.

I have to admit, we had no idea what was in store! It has been, and continues to be, an extraordinary experience for all of us.
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A note to our listeners

This week we will begin communicating directly with a small number of our listeners as we introduce a 40-hour-per-month limit on free mobile listening.

Most of you reading this will never hit the limit. In fact, it will affect less than 4% of our total monthly active listeners. For perspective, the average listener spends approximately 20 hours listening to Pandora across all devices in any given month.
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Pandora Whiteboard Sessions – Debuting our Whiteboard Sessions with Father John Misty, Colt Ford, Allen Stone, Allah-Las and Jukebox the Ghost!

For over 12 years now we have been carefully and deliberately assembling the music that streams on Pandora. The Music Genome Project collection now includes over 100,000 artists, the majority of them independent, spanning hundreds of genres. It is a great point of personal pride for me, and for all of us here at Pandora that over 95% of these artists stream every month on the service.

Over the years the Pandora office has had the great pleasure of receiving visits from many of these talented musicians and comedians. Some are well-established artists in town for a major show, others are in the middle of a grassroots tour, hitting coffee houses and small clubs up and down the West Coast (something I remember doing myself for many years).

Sometimes we just meet up to show them around the office and learn about their careers, other times our employees are treated to a short performance. We also take the opportunity to show them the Music Genome Project and walk them through an analysis of their music, along with some data on their audience on Pandora. It’s been fun to see their reaction when they learn which songs are the most “thumbed up” or how large their audience is, and what areas around the country are particularly enthusiastic for their sound (we’ll be posting some more detail on that soon).

WBS_ColtFord_crowdshot_01.pngWe’ve been doing this very informally for a while, but as the shows have grown in popularity both internally and externally, we recently decided to put some more effort into the programming. Earlier this year we started taping some of our in-office performances, and we gave them a name: the Whiteboard Sessions. The performances take place in front of a giant whiteboard in a common area of our office. On the day of the show one of our designers creates a unique drawing to represent each artist on the white board, which becomes the backdrop for the performance. If you follow us on social media you may have seen some photos from these performances.

The Whiteboard Sessions are unique because the daytime office environment calls for a different kind of performance than what people normally see at concerts. These sessions are mostly acoustic and there is a lot of interaction with the crowd. And there’s lots of improvising too – recycling bins become percussion instruments. There’s really nothing quite like an intimate, un-plugged show, up close and personal.
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Pandora and Artist Payments

Have you heard of Donnie McClurkin, French Montana or Grupo Bryndis? If you haven’t you’re not alone. They are artists whose sales ranks on Amazon are 4,752, 17,000 and 183,187, respectively. These are all working artists who live well outside the mainstream – no steady rotation on broadcast radio, no high profile opening slots on major tours, no front page placement in online retail. What they also have in common is a steady income from Pandora. In the next twelve months Pandora is on track to pay performance fees of $100,228, $138,567 and $114,192, respectively, for the music we play to their large and fast-growing audiences on Pandora.

tim-map.jpgAnd that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For over two thousand artists Pandora will pay over $10,000 dollars each over the next 12 months (including one of my favorites, the late jazz pianist Oscar Peterson), and for more than 800 we’ll pay over $50,000, more than the income of the average American household. For top earners like Coldplay, Adele, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Aldean and others Pandora is already paying over $1 million each. Drake and Lil Wayne are fast approaching a $3 million annual rate each.

This revenue stream is meaningful. I remember the many years I spent in a band when earning an additional thousand dollars a month would have been the difference between making music an avocation and a hobby. We’re talking here about the very real possibility of creating, for the first time ever, an actual musicians middle class.

It’s hard to look at these numbers and not see that internet radio presents an incredible opportunity to build a better future for artists. Not only is it bringing tens of millions of listeners back to music, across hundreds of genres, but it is also enabling musicians to earn a living. It’s also hard to look at these numbers, knowing Pandora accounts for just 6.5% of radio listening in the U.S., and not come away thinking something is wrong.
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Join Us to Stop the Discrimination Against Internet Radio

Today a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress by members of the House and Senate called the Internet Radio Fairness Act (H.R. 6480 and S. 3609).

It is a very important bill for Pandora. For the first time since 1998, it will finally bring fairness to the way performance royalties are determined for internet radio.

Pandora pays performers (and composers) for every song that we stream. And we do so proudly. I’m a longtime working musician myself, and supporting musicians is a central principle at Pandora.

However, as a result of legislative and legal strong-arming done over a decade ago by the RIAA, internet radio is subject to its own, very discriminatory standard. The resulting bias is staggering. To give you an idea, last year Pandora paid about half of all its revenue in performance fees alone. In that same year, SiriusXM paid 7.5%. No radio service anywhere in the world pays more than 15% of its revenue in such royalties. The anti-internet bias in federal law is nothing short of absurd.

The Internet Radio Fairness Act will address this discrimination by extending to internet radio the same standard used to determine virtually all copyright rate-setting processes, including satellite and cable radio, allowing us to compete on a level playing field.

Today we begin a grass-roots campaign to pass the Act and correct this discrimination.

This is not a campaign to stop paying royalties, or even to pay as little as possible. We’re just fighting for fairness.
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