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.

The data tell the story. In 2012, there were nearly 10,000 artists that each reached over 250,000 unique listeners on Pandora. Within this group, the median annual audience was about 750,000 listeners. To put that in context, the estimated audience on the nation’s largest broadcast radio station is approximately 60,000. So these 10,000 Pandora artists are effectively getting the equivalent of a spin every week on a major market FM radio station, all year long. According to Mediabase, less than half of these artists played on any broadcast radio last year. And what’s more, these are personalized stations chosen and curated by the listener (to the tune of 25 billion pieces of “thumb” feedback), so the audiences are already predisposed to like the songs. For the blues pianist, it’s like spinning every week on a station listened to exclusively by blues piano enthusiasts.

There are now over 200 million registered listeners on Pandora. We already account for over 8% of all radio listening hours, and Pandora holds the position as the #1 radio station in virtually all local markets in the U.S. Our catalog has more than a million songs in it, and we play virtually every song, every month. This is not the broadcast medium musicians have known all their lives — a perpetual fight by the well-financed for coveted slots on narrow playlists. It’s a musical meritocracy with a level playing field for everyone, and it’s also a glimpse into the future of the music industry — a transition away from controlled scarcity to distributed abundance.

Pandora’s Music Genome Project is blind to popularity so every artist gets an equal chance, be they an established star or a talented hobbyist. And the nature of personalized webcasting allows all of that music to play.

Pandora’s technology and scale ensures the largest and most relevant audience for every musician. And with that, the opportunity for each to control their own destiny.

This Op-Ed was published on April 12, 2013, in Billboard. The original can be viewed here


  1. Janice
    April 19, 2013 at 12:42pm
    Thank you keep doing what you are doing Its a privilege to be a pandora listener.
  2. gabriela salazar
    April 19, 2013 at 4:55pm
    Me gusta pandor x su variedad de musica y sin comerciales
  3. Bevky Crone
    April 21, 2013 at 5:06am
    I love Pandora! I have it on my galaxy skyrocket phone and my IPad! I listen to this, not the car radio or anything else! Thank you so very much for creating it, I'm a 54 year old woman who still rocks it out and dances to Billy Jean! Lol
  4. Jessica Ortman
    April 21, 2013 at 8:10am
    Your so cute! Thanks for all the great music. My daughter was just diagnosed with a siezure disorder. I was just diagnosed with a painfull bladder syndrome. Pandora radio has been thereputic and a source of joy during a difficult time in our lives Thanks!!!
  5. Don Howard
    April 21, 2013 at 2:50pm
    Your website has been a godsend. I have two stations running. Way better than what's on the radio without all the B/S.
  6. Roni Swindell
    April 22, 2013 at 1:23pm
    My son owns Red 7, a music venue and bar in Austin, Texas. He prides himself on booking cutting-edge music. I am always trying to impress him with my knowledge of new artists, and listen to Pandora at work to keep sharp. Last week I told him I love the Fruit Bats after hearing them on Pandora for the first time. He was way ahead of me, though, saying the Fruit Bats had already appeared at his club this year! On Pandora I get to hear new music for free that will prompt people to seek out these bands in live concerts, which can only be good for the music industry. Thank you!
    1. Carol Cohen
      April 23, 2013 at 4:39pm
      April 30 2013 Beat music around . Variety excellent Thank you.
  7. Rachel
    April 26, 2013 at 10:54am
    Thank you for what you do. To me Pandora is a godsend. The radio stations where I live are terrible and stuck mostly in one decade. Thanks to Pandora I am able to listen to music I like and keep up with new and upcoming artists. You have added so much musical variety to my life. You get me through my work day. I am forever grateful.
  8. Susan Tomey Davis
    April 26, 2013 at 11:15am
    I think it is great that so many artists are part of Pandora. I just love the variety of music that I can listen to. I am disappointed though that you have nothing from Paul Sullivan, River Music. Paul lives in Maine and has produced some fabulous new age CDs. To be able to listen to his music on Pandora would be music to my ears!
  9. deneyse addison
    April 28, 2013 at 2:02am
    Hey I love Pandora, You are great at getting your sound so close to other artists, However Myself and Others are Troubled as you have the Christopher Robin Band listed as a Station.. but He is Nowhere to be found on there.. Please fix this problem,.. As soon as possible.. He has a large following! I would like to still like to go to my favorite spot to listen to my favorite artists...
  10. Jeff Bennert
    May 13, 2013 at 8:05am
    I love Pandora but please stop putting those Obama Socialist propaganda commercials on Pandora!! We're tired of his lies!!
    1. califkarl60
      May 21, 2013 at 6:06pm
      I totally agree with your comments concerning the talking head who considers himself the leader of the U.S.A. What a sham! Had too much information about the phony before he got elected, Sorry to say those who voted him in prove how ignorant many of our free loading leaches have become, Great comment, Where have you seen the trash you are upset about?I have not seen any because I use only what is needed to select and listen to the music. I also have a beef, in that I pay the annual membership for the privilege of listening, and am insulted by the Pandora message, are you still listening, we must pay for every selection and don't want to play to an empty room. My comment: I pay for it and have the right to use it any time I like. Pandora send your reminder to the free loaders who listen and pay nothing!!! Quite bugging those of us who underwrite and support your station. Classes are offered free of charge in customer relations at most junior colleges. I suggest the Pandora staff enroll... you need it, ignorance is bad business.
      1. PandoraSupport
        March 25, 2014 at 9:44am
        @Califkarl60 Thanks for your feedback. I've noted it for our developers. Please know the reason for the timeout message is to prevent streaming to an empty room. It's a longer period until the timeout with a subscription. -Alyssa

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