There has been a flurry of press about the online music service Pandora in the last few days. The buzz was generated by founder Tim Westergren when he told the Washington Post that the company is “approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision” because of royalty increases that will begin to take hold. In fact, $17 million of a projected $25 million in revenue for this year will go toward royalties.
Yes, I’m a Pandora fan, though not a heavy user, and I also have some strong feelings as they apply to royalties and fees, including my post on SoundExchange. What interests me most is perhaps summed up in a question posed by Harve Alan who blogs on the subject of radio: Maybe we should befriend Pandora?
Maybe? No ifs, ands, or buts about it, Harve is the master of understatement. While he is speaking to the terrestrial broadcast community, he is also speaking to every medium, service, company, or individual who showcases music. I’m talking from good ol’ radio to the local club owner to you the listener.
Of course there is a business model that is at work here. But, in Pandora we have a service that was created by a musician and music lover with wants to tailor a listening experience to an individuals taste while at the same time exposing them to new music by a group of artists who for years, never received any kind of “national” exposure, a service (along with the likes of Last.FM, Imeem, etc) that answers so many of the complaints listeners and artists have expressed for years and we have to wonder who should care?
Radio, you should care because, like it or not, the web is where people have gone to discover music and you will, eventually I hope, follow them. What happens to Pandora will happen to your online initiatives. There’s too much ad money being spent online for you to allow that to happen.
Music Industry, you should care. Yeah, the traditional business model is hosed and, though the ultimate answer has yet to be found, being a party to targeting those providing ears to hear your product and charging them out of business sure as hell isn’t the way to do it.
Artists, you should care. Not only will revenue go away, but so will fans because if they can’t hear you, how in the hell can they be a fan.
Club owners, you should care. Sure you can sling beers at people who happen to show up when a band is playing. But you can do much better serving those fans, and their friends, that come out in droves to see the act that they heard online or on air.
Listeners, you should care because choice is what you’ve always wanted and you deserve nothing less.
Even if we never listen to them…we all should befriend Pandora.