Amid a bitter feud between music artists and streaming services over royalties for online music, Pandora appears to be extending the olive branch.
In an attempt to lure musicians back to the site, the streaming radio service recently announced its new Artist Marketing Platform, which provides listener data to music artists who are being played on Pandora.
The platform will open up its analytics backend to musicians, giving them a glimpse into their audience’s listening preferences. AMP provides artists with daily updates on the number of plays, demographic and geographic data on their fans and how many listeners are making playlists.
Pandora is betting on the hope that data analytics will have a “moneyball” effect on the music industry. The company suggests that its tool will enable artists to better target cities where their fan bases are large. The service will also refine the way artists plan release campaigns in order to better engage with audiences.
In a blog post, Pandora’s co-founder Tim Westergren remembers driving 1,098 miles from San Francisco to Telluride for his first Colorado gig when he was in college, only to find that 15 people showed up for the band’s performance.
“We didn’t really know any better at the time,” he admits. “We figured that’s what working bands do. You pay your dues, play tons of shows, drive thousands of miles and hope you can build some buzz and catch a break.”
With no platform to get wide-scale exposure, Westergren’s band faded into obscurity. Pandora’s analytics tool aims to make the day-to-day easier for artists by eliminating the guesswork.
Pandora isn’t the only platform that is giving musicians the ability to predict future hits. Spotify, a hegemon in the streaming world, partnered with Next Big Sound last year to provide free data analytics to music artists about their listeners. Spotify famously used streaming data to predict the winners of the 2013 Grammy Awards.
Other analytics platforms like MusicMetric are helping artists understand the popularity of a single song across countless digital platforms like YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and streaming platforms. When buzz starts building for a particular artist or song, the company can predict with startling accuracy what will go viral.
Not only will big data help musicians market their music, but it could also allow for greater diversity by making record labels more aware of niche audiences and fan bases.
While access to big data analytics helps ease the reverse sticker shock for some musicians, many aren’t buying the hype.
Last year David Byrne decried Spotify in a scathing Guardian op-ed that described streaming as “unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind.” In more recent news, pop icon Taylor Swift pulled 1989 from Spotify, stating: “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music.”
With artists earning an average of $0.007 per stream from streaming services, it’s no wonder so many musicians are asking questions about the profitability of the music streaming business model. Bon Jovi and his co-writers reportedly split a meager $110 for three months of “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
While Pandora might not pay its musicians higher royalties, it hopes to offer a boon to musicians who are on the platform.
“Whereas Pandora may not be able to offer as much to artists in pure dollar terms, what it can do is value-in-kind, which is data,” says Mark Mulligan, co-founder of MiDiA Research.
If Pandora is right, then listener data may prove more profitable to music artists than royalties in the long run.