Pandora Vs You

It’s not a secret that I am not a fan of Pandora. I’m not as hard on Spotify, but not really keen on that platform either. The premise they offer is counter they actually deliver, and subsequently doesn’t benefit you or the artists heard. Here’s why.

Pandora built its platform around a notion I do agree with: music consumption shouldn’t be limited to the same 25 songs repeated over and over all day. This is what commercial or corporate radio has built their product line and business model around. Few people still listen, even on pop stations. Pandora decided that they would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in acquiring licensing rights to broadcast a few million tracks via the internet. This “revolutionary” means of music distribution has led to Pandora apps on phones and in new vehicles, among other outlets.


What Pandora actually delivers is the 2.0 version of what corporate radio does. Pick any Artist station and the chances of you actually getting to hear this artist more than once in a given hour is minimal. Instead you’ll hear a mixture of other “similar” artists and quite a few commercials. How is this an alternative to radio?

I spend one night a week at a friends house playing cards. For the past 2 months, he’s had the home stereo tuned into his Queen station on Pandora. Each week I tease him about this because in a given hour, we’re lucky to hear 2 Queen tracks. What we usually get is Billy Joel, Elton John, and Led Zepplin. On occasion we’ll hear a few cover tracks of Queen, but they are mostly poorly done. He pays for this service and this is what he gets.

Spotify is a little better with variety, but I’m not diving into one versus the other. Instead, this is a matter of Pandora versus you, and in some ways versus the artists they play. When Thom Yorke of Radiohead pulled all his music from Spotify and Pandora because the licensing rates were ripping him off, that sent a few shock waves through the system of music distribution. There are also more and more web based music platforms emerging that do similar to what Pandora claims to. The advertising route of revenue is so similar to commercial radio that they are mirroring the problem they first attempted to solve.

It goes without saying that indie radio on public media and other web platforms is both where true music discovery happens, as well as diversity of artists. On a station that professes to air the best of Pearl Jam or Bruce Springsteen in indie radio, chances are that’s what you’ll get. The revenue model for this kind of music media is based on you partaking in the process and that includes financially. It’s more of a service for contribution model, where if you like it, you give willingly instead of charging someone for a promise not delivered. This is the beauty and significance of public media, and why it’s so valuable to both the music listening public, and the artists featured there.

Want to hear a real music mix. Check Here or go to our Listen Now page.

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Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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