Pandora Radio

By Andrew Saltman

History

Pandora Internet Radio is an online music streaming service that provides listeners with automated playlists based on their likes and listening habits among many other things. Founded by Will Glaser, Jon Kraft, and Tim Westergren in 2000, Pandora was designed to bring users individualized radio stations with great music and no “junk.” Westergren currently sits on the Board of Directors, and Brian McAndrews serves as the company’s CEO. The Music Genome Project is the sophisticated formula that analyzes each song using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by trained music analysts. The analysts typically have four year degrees in music theory or composition and had to pass a selective screening process and complete an extensive training program in order to accurately analyze songs for the project. Pandora does not use any listening machines to analyze any song, as all analysis comes from the human analysts. [2]

Pandora users are able to create up to 100 unique stations (or playlists) based off an artist, genre or composer. Users are allowed to skip six songs per hour per station, and up to 24 skips across all stations per day. Pandora also allows users to refine their stations by liking or disliking each track they hear. Pandora continues to learn listening habits as users continue to listen and like songs. The more someone uses their Pandora account, the more personalized the stations become. [4]

Financials

Pandora got it’s start with investments from both angel investors and venture capitalists, and in June of 2011 the company went public through an IPO. According to Pandora’s 2013 Annual Report, stock prices traded on the NYSE started at $16.00 per share on June 14th, 2011. At the end of the 4th quarter in January of 2013 the high stock price came in at $11.90 with the lowest price at $7.08. Revenue has increased dramatically in the five years that Pandora has been publicly traded. Pandora brought in $19,333,000 in advertising and subscription fees in 2009. In 2013, Pandora brought in almost half a billion dollars at $427,145,000 before expenses. [3] In 2010 Pandora had 16 million users listening to 1.8 billion hours of music. Three years later in 2013, 65.6 million users listened to over 14 billion hours of music. Pandora’s most recent audience metrics for March of 2014 were just released (graphic below). Pandora also announced that after June of 2014 they will no longer publicize its monthly key audience metrics. [5]

Current Endeavors

Peet’s Coffee

In March of 2014, Pandora announced a brand new partnership with Peet’s Coffee & Tea. “Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a premier specialty coffee and tea company, and Pandora, the leading internet radio service, announced a new partnership which marks the first time Pandora will feature partner branded radio stations in a brick-and-mortar environment nationwide” (Pandora) [7]. Peet’s coffee will now play its own customized radio stations in all of the stores across the United States. What makes these stations unique to Peet’s is that they will all be curated by a 25-year employee and music aficionado Patrick Main, not to mention the fact that the new Peet’s stations will be available to all Pandora listeners. Peet’s will have four personalized stations that are meant to pair well with their coffees using music outside what is played on mainstream radio. The stations include Peet’s Melodic Indie meant for bright and fresh coffees, Peet’s Jazz Giants reflecting Peet’s Italian Roast and espressos, Peet’s Origins which enhances Peet’s earthy African blends, and finally Peet’s Eclectic Classical station that should be paired with Peet’s French Roast. This partnership is quite the impressive business venture for both Peet’s and Pandora. Peet’s will be able to compete with the music in rivals like Starbucks that already has a partnership with Apple and iTunes. Pandora will also benefit as they are trying to compete with other streaming services like Spotify and Rdio. Peet’s customers hopefully will enjoy the musical selections in Peet’s coffee shops which will help Peet’s retain customers and help Pandora gain more subscribers. This partnership could be the first of many for Pandora as they attempt to gain more market share in the online streaming world.

Royalty Lawsuit

Although Pandora has been doing very well recently in terms of subscribers and partnerships, they have also gained a lot of negative press in regards to their catalog and royalty payments. In April of 2014, the three major labels Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment, along with indie labels ABKCO and RIAA, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in New York state court against Pandora. The suit on Pandora is for playing pre-February 15, 1972 recordings without making any royalty payments. “The labels say both digital music services (Pandora & SiriusXM) take advantage of a copyright loophole, since the master recording for copyright wasn’t created federally until 1972. But the labels claim that their master recordings are protected by individual state copyright laws and therefore deserve royalty payments” (Christman) [8]. Michael Huppe, the CEO and President of SoundExchange, a non-profit performance rights organization, estimated that artists and labels have lost 60 million dollars in royalty payments for pre-1972 songs in just 2013 alone.

This lawsuit has come after many artists, like legendary guitarist and songwriter Steve Cropper, have complained about the lack of payments from streaming services, especially Pandora. Songwriters are asking to be compensated for their work due to the fact that Pandora and other streaming services are profiting off of their original content. The case filed against SiriusXM in February is very similar and further along in the legal process. We can expect to see some important rulings and clarity in this case shortly, which will directly affect the Pandora case and whether courts believe songwriters should be compensated for pre-1972 works. SiriusXM’s hearing is set for May 14th. These two cases are extremely important for the world of streaming, as many music industry experts believe streaming is the future of recorded music. A ruling in favor of songwriters and artists could potentially ease the tension between the two camps and have all artists begin to support streaming. Currently many artists are against streaming because they don’t feel they are being properly compensated; however, streaming is significantly more convenient for consumers and could notably help reduce illegal downloading. [8]

Upcoming

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Step 2

Pandora also recently announced that they will be taking open music submissions. This will now make it easier than ever for independent artists to get their music out to over 70 million active listeners on the site. This is an initiative that Pandora will continue to pursue in the coming year in hopes to give independent artists a chance to reach a bigger audience. All independent artists need to do is submit their material digitally online for consideration.

Pandora has a bright future in the online streaming world if they can solve their differences with record labels and songwriters. Their initiatives in the consumer space, like with Peet’s Coffee, and their goals to help independent artists will make them a more attractive destination for music listeners to go to for content.

 

Works Cited

[1] Pandora – Pandora Logo RT: March 25, 2014

[2] Pandora – About Pandora RT: March 25, 2014

[3] Pandora – 2013 Anual Report RT: April 15, 2014

[4] Pandora – Skip Policy RT: March 25, 2014

[5] Pandora – Corporate Overview RT: March 25, 2014

[6] Pandora – 2014 Audience Metrics RT: April 15, 2014

[7] Pandora – Peet’s Coffee Partnership RT: April 7, 2014

[8] Billboard Magazine – Pandora Lawsuit RT: April 18, 2014

[9] The Trichordist – SiriusXM Royalty Payment Sheet RT: April 15, 2014

[10] Pandora – Music Submission for Independent Artists RT: March 25, 2014

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