A Holy Grail for the Artist Revolution

It’s a glorious time for music fans. All the music we could ever want is available at our fingertips. We can get a highly curated and personalized music experience on any device to navigate through the infinite sea of sounds and artists. The revolution has happened for fans. The machines we have created to access and discover music will never deny us, and it will only get better.

The revolution hasn’t quite happened in the same way for artists or their supporting creator ecosystem. While we have progressed immensely in connecting artists to their existing fans, there are no effective systems that enable creators to find new fans at scale and grow their audiences. Most artists can’t afford high cost radio promotion, and current methods like paying for banner ads on facebook, google, etc. are a mixed bag. They are blunt instruments blasting out promotion seldom in the proper context. It’s hard to track, so the ROI is dubious, and hence it all feels like a waste of money.

A key to enabling the artist revolution is to give all creators the means to introduce their new music most efficiently, almost perfectly, to new audiences. Those of us working to advance the fate of creators and artists affectionately call the machine to enable this, the Holy Grail. Artists would use it to promote a new single, and it would systematically find all the true fans who would love to connect with that new song.

Holy grail

[Image credit: Lucasfilm Archives]

The Holy Grail for Creators has long been elusive since it’s been near impossible to combine a massive audience with the self-serve capability to promote any new single to the right people at the precisely the right time. This is particularly hard to do with new music since those songs do not have any runtime or traction, and it’s even harder to do if it’s a new artist trying to break through.

At Pandora we have the ingredients to crack the code and build the Holy Grail. Pandora has the largest audience of music streamers in the US (76M) listening on average 24 hours a month, which is the most time spent in any app in the US. The Artist Marketing Platform (AMP) is available self-serve to ALL artists on Pandora, so the creator ecosystem is completely empowered to promote anything that’s important to them. Creators have received over one billion impressions and spins of artist audio messages. To commemorate this recent milestone, we’ve announced more powerful features for AMP. These systems are only getting better as demonstrated by the Pandora Data Science team finding new and better ways to quantify the artist-fan-connection. See Kat Glaeser’s piece on our Artist Affinity Score.

The data science that connects a creator’s song to the massive audience of listeners on Pandora is the most important part of the artist-fan equation. By harnessing hundreds of billions data points, Pandora can more precisely find the true fans for newly promoted music. It all starts with the Music Genome, which analyzes the attributes of a new song to jump-start it into the radio and recommendation systems. From there listener thumbing and engagement behavior are used by Pandora’s algorithms to find more new fans and listening opportunities for promoted songs. Artists and creators can get data on how their songs performed in AMP before deciding which one to promote as a new Featured Track. In a recent post, the Pandora Data Science team expands on our Featured Track approach and explains the science and process of promoting a new single at scale. Check out Andrew Asman’s work on helping artists find new fans with our Featured Tracks.

The Featured Track song targeting methods find more unique radio stations to play a promoted single and within those stations find the specific fans who are most likely to enjoy the new single. These new found listeners are on average 83% likely to give the Featured Track a thumbs up, which results in increased spins and more people listening. The impact is felt more for emerging and middle-class artists who spin less than 1000 plays a day. These artists experience a 2-5x increase in spins per day during the promotional period of a Featured Track.

Featured Track Impact

A Pandora Featured Track finds true fans who are genuinely likely to thumb up that new single resulting in more sustained growth for artists. It’s an effective way for artists to connect long-term to more engaged fans compared to getting placed on a random popular playlist or broadcasted to everyone without targeting science.

Most algorithmic approaches that introduce music to people optimize on behalf of the listener. These methods do not consider what the artist and label want to promote at any given time. Pandora’s Featured Tracks, however, puts the power in the hands of the artist and label by letting them promote whichever song they want simply, immediately, and for no cost. It’s worth repeating — ALL artists and labels, big and small on Pandora can promote their new singles for free unlike other networks and services that charge you to find new fans. Not a bad ROI.

It’s completely self-serve so you don’t need to know someone who knows someone or have to pick up the phone and talk to anyone. If you are spinning on Pandora, login to AMP today and use Featured Tracks to promote your new single and find more fans. There is no editorial monopoly or gatekeeping. All artists, creators, labels can promote their new music today.

As incredible as these features are, it’s important to recognize that there are no silver bullets or panaceas in artist marketing. These tools can help new songs find likely fans but once there, the fans either like the song or not, which ultimately determines how often that song plays and to whom. The best practice is to use all the tools available across all the networks and services to promote your music. It’s relentless and essential. Spend your time efficiently, however, and gravitate to the ones that you can access yourselves, where you are completely in control, and which will have the most impact. Pandora’s AMP is the leading contender in meeting all those unique needs. If you’re spinning on Pandora and have not had a chance to check it out, log in now and make the most of it.

If you are like us and not happy with the status quo, drop us a line to share the work you are doing to help artists find new fans and reach their full potential. If you appreciate the mission and ethos in this post or the great work of our Pandora data science team in either promoting creators or connecting them to their fans, reach out and connect. Let’s work together to bring the revolution to artists.

Pandora AMP


Spooky Advertising

Every now and then, occasionally but increasingly frequently, I’m blown away by the efficacy of today’s targeted advertising. It may be purely coincidental ad placement, but sometimes the accuracy of an online ad is precisely right. When it hits the spot, advertising can actually be a good thing for everyone involved: a prospective buyer getting more relevant information on goods they actually want to purchase, an advertiser who ultimately transacts with a new customer, and the platform on which the connection was made. As wonderful as it can be, it feels a creepy when the targeted ad is so exactly right. How did they know? What information are they using to surface that particular ad at the most opportune moment? Was my information gathered without my permission or knowledge and traded to other parties in order for the ad to be delivered? I don’t know, and this lack of understanding makes me wonder and causes a bit of concern as to what other profile and behavioral information are being mined and traded about me.

These eerily accurate and spooky ads do haunt me at times when they hit the nail on the head. With so much at stake in the arms race of advertising, it seems that these types of spooky ads are happening so much that I’m going to start tracking and documenting them as #spookyadvertising.

Here’s the first example with context. On Saturday July 2nd 2016, I went into a Banana Republic in Union Square San Francisco and looked at their men’s shirts. I was looking for shirts that I could wear untucked at work, because in general I hate tucking in my shirt. I looked around the store and even asked someone who worked at Banana Republic about shirts that I could wear without tucking them in. After browsing a bit, I left without buying anything. Later that day, I got this ad on my twitter. This ad was for an online apparel company called Untuckit that sold shirts that are to be worn untucked. It was essentially a perfect ad. I browsed the site a couple times over the next two days and made a purchase.




How did they know I was looking to buy untucked shirts? It could be pure coincidence, or perhaps there was insight derived by my visit to a physical store at Banana Republic. I find it hard to believe that this ad was targeted based on the conversation I had in the store with a Banana Republic sales clerk. I’m still wondering exactly how they knew to surface that particular ad to me since it worked well in many different ways. Perhaps it’s a damn good guess as to what I would want to see in ad, and considering over 99.999% of ads surfaced to me don’t work, perhaps finally the odds were in this ads favor. #spookyadvertising.

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My career has been committed to building products and services for the creative community, so I’m super excited to join Pandora as a VP of Product to continue on that mission. I’ll be working with the great team at Pandora to build products and services for artists and the music maker community.

I’m fired up because I’ve had a lot of respect for Pandora through the years. Tim Westergren’s entrepreneurial story is legendary, and the entire team built the best personalized radio service on the planet. The numbers speak for themselves. With 80 Million active unique users a month, Pandora is by far the biggest Internet radio service and is responsible for more than 50% of SoundExchange’s total royalty revenue. It’s amazing to me that they’ve reached these numbers without any true network effect, which is a testament to the quality of their radio experience. Pandora’s also the leading pure music service (i.e., not YouTube) and the growth is just getting started as Pandora is only available in 3 countries (US, Australia, and New Zealand) whereas the other major services are available in 50+ countries.

Pandora’s technical prowess is second to none. The team created a magical and bulletproof listening experience for all kinds of music lovers across all platforms. They engineered a unique and comprehensive Music Genome to jumpstart great music into the ears of likely fans. The playlists are further optimized by harnessing the billions of preference data points from all their users, not an easy feat. It’s a music + data nerd’s heaven, which is a major reason I’m so jazzed to join the team.

I have felt the power of Pandora’s Music Genome first-hand when I was introduced to one of my all-time favorite songs, Mary on a Pandora radio station I created in sometime in 2006 I think. I fell in love with that song and would have done anything to listen to it again. Before the days where everything was available online, I spent a lot of time and effort to hunt that track down. Mary was a bonus track off the Japanese Import of Groove Armada’s Vertigo album and was completely unavailable in the US. I searched exhaustively in bootleg shops and across the web to no avail. I finally found it selling in a record store in Japan and got it shipped over. It was the best $60 I ever spent for one song. The power of music. It was then I realized that Pandora could deliver a music experience like no other.



Cover of Japanese Import for Groove Armada’s Vertigo Album



I’ll be working with some great people on building a better bridge between the music makers and Pandora’s massive base of music fans. We have a chance to significantly move the needle to improve the welfare of artists, while strengthening the connection to their fans. Given all the opportunity ahead to expand globally and empower more artists and fans through Pandora, it feels like we’re just getting started. Looking forward to the road ahead.



SXSW 2015

Time for the pilgrimage to Austin for SXSW 2015. Thank you to Karen Allen for inviting me to speak on her panel: Underground Railroad of Artist Revenue on Wednesday March 18th at 3:30pm. I’d love to see you there. It’s an interesting topic on the alternate revenue opportunities for artists. The craft and industry of being an artist are evolving rapidly, and people still need to make it happen.

I land on Sunday March 15th and leave Thursday 19th AM. Drop me a line on twitter if you’re going to be around. It’d be great to meet up.



NBC Press Here TV Interview

I finally got around to watching the interview I did on NBC’s Press Here TV. It was filmed and broadcast in early November 2014, but I only saw the clip today. Thank you Aunny Delarosa for hooking it up. I enjoy talking about the things I love and am interested and do so publicly at conferences and on TV. I’m not a fan of watching it back, however. So I didn’t get around to seeing it and then forgot about it until now. This segment is about Taylor Swift pulling her music off Spotify. It was a short-term financial strategy that probably resulted in $1M+ in total incremental revenue for her last release, but it cost her a lot in terms of potential new fan exposure on Spotify. Ultimately it was annoying to her existing fans on Spotify since so many are now denied her music. Ironically, the massive amount of publicity this issue got in the press drove much awareness about Taylor Swift’s new album and introduced her to new audiences through traditional media. It may have been the best marketing move of her release. It was fun doing the session and sharing a car ride back to the city from San Jose with Josh Constine and Christina Farr.