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Pandora and the Future of Radio

Pandora Radio is a fun and unique way to discover your next favorite song. If you haven’t tried it before, you’re in for a treat (assuming you live in the United States – as of this writing, the music is only licensed for domestic play). Just go to pandora.com, type in the name of a band you like, and sit back. You’ll hear all sorts of related music, but not necessarily related in the ways you’d think. Pandora doesn’t use sales data like Amazon’s “Recommended if you like” suggestions. Instead, their team of fifty editors exhaustively analyze each song’s musical characteristics, using nearly 400 attributes!

Beyond their contribution to the world of music, I feel like I owe them a personal debt of gratitude. Every couple of weeks, I get an e-mail from someone saying they heard me on Pandora, and asking what album the song they heard is on. There’s a ‘Buy’ option right inside Pandora, so I’m only hearing from that small slice of listeners who want the CD but don’t see that option, don’t think to check iTunes, Amazon, or my web site, yet are able to figure out my e-mail address.

In my opinion, the best form of promotion is word-of-mouth. Pandora takes the concept one step further by automating the process. It’s easy to set up any number of personal radio stations, which continually modify their playlists based on user input.

Musicians can learn how to submit their music here. Fortunately for everyone involved, they are very discriminating. Setting the bar high saves listeners from slogging through every band with a MySpace page. With so much content on the internet, filters are more important than ever. I don’t remember if I sent them all of my albums, but as far as I can tell they’ve only included a handful of songs from three out of my six. The seventh is on the way, and I’m optimistic about its chances. We’ll know in 6-8 weeks!

Update 2/09: The Thought Chapter made the cut, so I owe the folks at Pandora another big smoochie!

Update 6/09: Pandora updated their submission process. In order to submit your music, you must have the physical CD for sale at Amazon. That requires signing up for the Amazon Advantage program, which I would advise against for most artists. It’s $30 a year, they take 55% of the sales price, and they make you ship CDs to them one at a time. It’s a lot of time and effort for the mere chance of being included on Pandora, but I can see why it makes sense for them to raise the bar and reduce the number of submissions.

Update 8/10: The submission process has been streamlined, but still requires that the physical CD is on sale at Amazon.com. You enter the UPC and upload two mp3s for review. If accepted, you send the physical CD. Submit your music here.

Update 2/14: You no longer need to have a physical CD! The entire process is now digital. Details here.

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Björn Brändewall
    November 20, 2008 at 6:23 am

    Pity it doesn’t work outside U.S. I would have loved to try it.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    November 20, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Thanks for reminding me Björn! I’ve edited the article to mention that. It really is a shame, but the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides the license for all the music they play, and there is no equivalent outside of the US.

  • Reply
    Terry Davis
    December 12, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Hey, I’ve submitted my music to Pandora (months ago), and I’ve not heard any word as to whether they’re even considering adding it to their system.

    Will seek to contact them soon…

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    December 12, 2008 at 10:17 am

    They explain in their FAQ that they don’t have time to contact people, and encourage you to mail it with delivery confirmation if it’s important for you to know they got it. If it’s any consolation, I haven’t heard anything from them since I sent my latest in a month ago.

  • Reply
    Robert Hedin
    August 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    My CD is “available” on amazon, through CDBaby. Pandora doesn’t recognize my UPC, so apparently I would still have to sing up for Amazon Advantage to get it more officially on Amazon to statisfy Pandora’s Amazon sales requirements. I’ve been trying to decide if it’s worth it? What do you think, Brian? A private message is OK. 🙂

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      August 13, 2010 at 4:42 pm

      I looked up your CD on Amazon, and it looks just as “official” as mine, so I don’t know what’s up. I would email CD Baby first, and then Pandora if you have to. If it comes down to it, I think it’s worth the $30 and the hassle for a chance at inclusion.

  • Reply
    anaROBIK
    August 14, 2010 at 8:00 am

    I contacted Amazon, they had to link the UPC to my physical CD, and then the tracks samples (already there from the MP3 version) magically linked to the CD, and I seem to be able to get through the Pandora submission process now and don’t need Advantage. Although I’m not sure where the $14.49 price is coming from on Amazon, that’s not my list on CDBaby. I might want Advantage just to sell the CD on Amazon for a more reasonable price.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    August 14, 2010 at 9:14 am

    It’s totally not worth it. You’d only get $6.50 out of that $14.49 selling price anyway, minus the postage to send CDs to Amazon one at a time. I’m only selling about a CD a month on Amazon these days, and they’ve got all 8 of mine.

    Glad it’s working! Looks like they magically linked mine last week too. Before the CD wasn’t connected to the mp3 version, and the sound clips weren’t there.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    August 27, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Turns out you can meet the Amazon requirement without spending any money:

    http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2010/08/how-to-get-your-music-into-pandora

  • Reply
    Sylvia Odhner
    January 9, 2014 at 2:52 am

    I discovered your music from Pandora! And here I am commenting on your old blog post from 2008, haha. I found this blog from Twitter and I thought it was interesting.

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    January 11, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Glad you did!

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