In light of our exciting new Pandora integration, we chat with Pandora's Dan Wissinger and Jay Troop about why Pandora matters to the music industry and to artists’ careers, how artists can get their music on Pandora, and what strategies you can use to make sense of your Pandora data — whether it's on Next Big Sound, AMP, or Chartmetric.
If you haven’t heard the news, we’ve recently become the first third-party music analytics company to host Pandora data publicly, which includes stream counts, monthly listeners, and station adds for hundreds of thousands of artists. We were honored, as a result, to have Pandora's Dan Wissinger and Jay Troop come on the How Music Charts podcast to give us an inside look at how Pandora — and Pandora data — works.
Dan is currently a Senior Product Manager at Pandora, where he spearheads the Next Big Sound and Artist Marketing Platform (AMP) product teams, and Jay is a Senior Analyst for Next Big Sound and AMP. Jay is also responsible for Artist & Industry Insights at Pandora writ large. If you’re not familiar with Next Big Sound, it's one of the original music analytics tools, so we highly suggest checking it out as soon as you can, and the same goes for AMP, which, as our guests explain, is an artist’s best friend on Pandora.
Because Pandora is now decidedly American, global audiences might not be fully aware of what it is and how it works. So, we decided to start with the basics. What is Pandora, and how does it work?
Pandora is a music streaming service based in the United States. It's online, over the web, or a mobile app, and it features an on-demand style experience that you'd be familiar with if you're familiar with services like Spotify, Deezer, or Apple Music. Where it's differentiated is in its focus on radio and the lean-back experience. We started as an online radio service before the concept of on-demand streaming even existed, and Pandora's specialty was this algorithmic radio experience where you would pick an artist or a song that you liked, and then Pandora would build a radio experience around similar artists and songs, and it would respond to your preferences based on whether you thumbed up or thumbed down a given song. While we have the $10-a-month premium on-demand experience that you're familiar with, the core of the service is really still centered around that algorithmic radio experience that tens of millions of users love. — Dan Wissinger
To add a little business context, as of Feb. 1, 2019, Pandora is owned by satellite and internet radio conglomerate SiriusXM, and Pandora, in turn, operates two analytics platforms: Next Big Sound, which is a public music analytics platform acquired by Pandora in 2015, and AMP, a private music data and marketing dashboard for artists and their teams (think Spotify for Artists). Both platforms are free, by the way, which makes it even easier to understand your Pandora data at the granular and market levels — no matter what your goals are.
Why Pandora Matters
Earlier this year, rapper Call Me Ace explained how getting his music onto Pandora — and understanding his Pandora and social media data through Next Big Sound — helped him hit the Billboard charts in 2019.
But Pandora isn't just important for independent artists — it's also important for the American music industry, where it boasts some 60M Monthly Active Users (MAUs). To put that into perspective, Spotify has around 78M MAUs in the US and Canada combined, suggesting that Pandora likely has more users in the US than Spotify does.
What has set it apart is the amount of data that we've wound up trying to gather as well.... [The Music Genome Project] that we seeded this algorithmic listening experience with was an analysis of almost every single song we played.... Still the analyses that power this are done by musicologists, they're done by pro players, they're incredibly in-depth. Some of them have as many as 400 dimensions, depending on the genre ... and that, combined with the users' thumbs and stuff, has given us this really interesting engine to try and personalize a lean-back listening radio experience that also is an interesting one and helps you find new music you'll love. — Jay Troop
We're particularly strong in Country, emerging Hip-Hop, and Christian. We're weirdly strong in New Age.... Our audience in the United States is massive at like 60M users, but one thing that I think is really interesting is that we're by far the largest free service in the United States. The majority of our audience is still in an ad-supported environment, and that really differentiates us from services who are focused ... on the premium subscription. — Dan Wissinger
While the algorithmic radio and on-demand streaming platform is US-bound for the foreseeable future, the outsize influence that the American market has on the global music industry suggests that international markets might want to start paying a little more attention to Pandora.
Strategies for Making Pandora Work for You
The first step for an artist looking to make the most out of the Pandora platform, is to get your music spinning. You can do that here. But once you do have your music on Pandora, what next?
Keep your story straight, and stay focused on the story. The story really matters about where an artist came from and where they're going — that really connects with fans, and that's an important thing for everybody on the artist team to understand where they are in the story, what the story is, and where they're trying to go with it. The flip-side of it is keep laser-focused on the goal.... What are you really trying to do here?.... Making music is art; marketing it doesn't have to be.... Stay focused on your goal, and build your strategies around that. — Jay Troop
If you try to approach Pandora like you might approach Spotify, and you release a record and you do everything you possibly can to get all your fans to listen to that record on-demand in that first week that it's out, that's not going to work well on Pandora. What you need on Pandora is an audience that's listening to your station and that's thumbing up songs on your station, that then starts to hear your music on other Pandora stations of artists similar to you. — Dan Wissinger
For more strategies to help you leverage your Pandora data and further your music career, listen to the full episode below.