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Why Independent Artists Should Love Pandora

We've written fairly extensively about how Pandora relates to independent artists , including how to get your music on Pandora. Now Tim Westergren, founder of the internet radio service, has written a guest article for Billboard explicitly addressing how his service can benefit under-the-radar musicians.

The overall point of his piece is that Pandora appeals to independent artists because it provides a large audience to thousands of musicians who are getting no airplay on broadcast radio stations. But many of the statistics he cites in the article give further insight to the state of not only Pandora, but also broadcast radio culture today.

Independent Artists on Pandora

Pandora Takes a Wider Variety of Music to a Larger Audience

Recently, Pandora gained its 200 millionth registered user. When compared with broadcast radio, satellite radio and other internet radio platforms, Pandora accounts for 8 percent of all radio listening hours, making it the number one radio station in nearly every local market in the U.S.

But the real advantage of Pandora is its variety. Westergren says that throughout the entire month of January, the top three largest terrestrial radio stations in the U.S. played a total of only 297, 157 songs and 261 artists, respectively. During that same time period, there were 100,000 unique artists played on Pandora.

Internet Radio Levels the Playing Field

According to the article, Pandora (and the Music Genome Project that powers it) is blind to popularity, therefore giving all artists on the service a fair shot at being played. This is certainly running against the grain of most traditional radio stations today, which often finds labels and other representatives exchanging large amounts of money and other perks to gain airplay for their artists.

Still, it’s a given that not all of those 100,000 artists will reach every Pandora listener -- nor should they. But here’s some additional insight: throughout 2012, there were 10,000 artists on Pandora that each reached over 250,000 listeners. That’s huge.

For comparison, the largest broadcast radio audience in the country reaches approximately 60,000 listeners. Granted, this is not an apples to apples comparison, though it does add a bit of perspective to the numbers.

Really a Level Playing Field?

Westergren says his service creates a “level playing field for everyone,” though that is going a bit too far. As you’d expect, his article is biased toward his own company, but it does disclose a great deal about the current climate of radio, both internet and terrestrial. Westergren has often been fairly transparent about numbers and figures regarding his service. This is refreshing, particularly compared to traditional radio where everything often seems to happen between men in expensive suits behind closed doors.

However, the article shies away from the big elephant in the room, which is how much these artists are paid for their plays on the service. As seen in the above linked article, Westergren believes Pandora plays should result in more pay, but blames the labels, performing rights organizations and Washington lobbyists for taking the largest share of royalties rather than the artists.

What is clear is that the service offers a visible platform for many artists that wouldn't otherwise have one. If it continues to cultivate this visibility and remains relevant, it is likely that visibility will continue to rise in the future.

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