Internet has become the best way to show the world just how good your music is.
This is absolutely no news; in fact, music streaming has been around for the past two decades. But then, what is so special about Pandora? Pandora is a human-curated platform that works with over 450 attributes (per song!).
Let’s take a look at one of the internet’s oldest and most prestigious freemium music streaming software and radio and how to get your music to the ears of the millions of people that listen to it every day. Read on and get ready to shake the world with your tunes.
What is Pandora?
The legend says that once upon a time, before Spotify was even a thought, Pandora already had millions of users. While Spotify saw its launch day on 2008, the work to get Pandora up and running began in the year 2000.
By 2005 it went live for the general audience as a paid service only but changed to a freemium model in less than a year.
Fast forward to 2013 and Pandora was the responsible for 70% of all internet radio in the US. The number of active users by then rose up to 70 million and popularity was sky-high.
Nowadays, and with the arrival of the Swedish giants to rule the streaming world, the company closed all branches in other countries to focus solely in the US market where it has over 80 million active monthly users. Finally, by 2019, it was acquired by Sirius XM for 3.5 billion dollars in stock although it kept its name and staff.
Why is Pandora so special?
Pandora’s history is unlike the history of many other platforms with the same service because it is based on the Music Genome Project. This project preceded the creation of the streaming platform and is very simple and yet very complex.
What Will Glaser and Tim Westergren set out to do was to fill out a virtual form of 450 fundamental attributes of each song. This was not a random endeavor; it is the joint effort of a vast team of professionals.
These attributes are the core information that metaphorically forms the DNA of that music piece. This was possible thanks to the talent and work of Nolan Gasser and a group of musicological experts that defined and started to implement each of the attributes of the musical genome of songs.
Once that first step was giving, and utilizing a complex algorithm, the integration of the genome to Pandora’s musical selections separated it from the rest of online radios and music streaming services.
The characteristics of your likings and your listening patterns activate the similarities and differences among the songs and their 450 qualities and the platform offers you songs of your liking that you probably didn’t know. This is a great way of discovering music that you will potentially love but wouldn’t make it to your ears any other way.
There is even a feature for users to rate the songs selected for them with a simple thumbs up or down. This action will narrow down the choices of the algorithm that will refine the results for you even further.
The music genome project is the heart and soul of Pandora and its competitive advantage versus other similar platforms. Still today, twenty years later, it employs music professionals to keep on filling songs attributes.
This human work added to the algorithm precision makes Pandora a great source for new music.
Why is it important to get your music on Pandora?
- The first reason is that because of the Music Genome Project most users trust Pandora’s recommendations. The company works with an admission program and not all music is allowed in, but the one that is, gets into the Music Genome Project, receives its 450 cells of information and starts spinning through each of the different plans. This means that your potential fans that like music just like yours can get your songs queued up and get to know your talent. This will bring potential fans and revenue for sales for your creations.
- The second reason is that these potential fans are counted by the millions in the United States.
- Get revenue from your new fans and existing ones. In a world in which radio stations as we once knew them are no longer setting the trend for music listeners in the world, internet radios and streaming service should be your first aim.
Can you get your music to Pandora without a music distributor?
The answer to this question is roughly yes, but we need to clear some things out first.
What is a music distributor?
Back in the day, distributing music was a physical endeavor.
These companies would have to ship CDs or Vinyls or cassettes boxes every week to make sure your product was in every shelf. Once the product sold (hopefully), you’d get the money big retailers paid the distributor and they would keep their part.
Nowadays the whole landscape changed but the job of musical distributors haven’t; it is just that they don’t distribute physical copies of your music, just digital ones. Also the stores have changed and they no longer collect money from retail stores but royalties from streaming platforms and radios, just like Pandora.
Choosing the best music distributor is very important and we are going to see more about it in a minute, first let’s take a look at how Pandora works.
Different Pandora services
Pandora offers subscribers with three different plans to enjoy music:
- Pandora Radio
- Pandora Premium
- Pandora Plus
As an independent artist, you can fill the form and submit your music to be played only on Pandora Radio.
Should you get your music to Pandora without a music distributor?
The answer to this question is a big no. For your music to be considered for Pandora Premium or Plus, you have to upload it with a music distributor (more on which in a minute).
That being said, Pandora’s team of curators is always in the search of new music to add to the radio and the musicologists evaluate each piece sent in for consideration. You can even do both things at the same time: submit to the Radio independently and to Premium and Plus with a label.
Not all music distributors work the same way or enjoy the same reputation from the Pandora team. While it is true that a specifically trained musicologist reviews each submission to the Radio, most artists say that if you use a music distributor your chances of getting the content approved increase drastically.
3 Recommended distributors to upload your music to Pandora
The more recommended, serious and professional ones are iMusician, CDBaby and TuneCore. Going with either of these options you are guaranteed excellent service. Let’s take a closer look at them:
This is a very complete platform that will take care of all the rights for your music worldwide.
They even offer musicians with an encrypted “music locker” where your music can be stored for any future claims of authorship. They will place your music on over 200 shops worldwide and track all kinds of streamings including syncing rights for movies, commercials and such.
Through Content ID you’ll receive royalties from YouTube and Facebook monetization.
Derek Sivers founded CDBaby back in 1998 and started out distributing music for himself and his friends. The company grew exponentially and eventually he sold it, donated all the money and dedicated to philanthropy and other endeavors.
The company, though, moved on and is now one of the biggest, most reliable music distributors of the world. Their approach is very honest and you can track all of your revenue straight from their website. In fact, they have a great combo to offer in which you can hire them to do physical and digital distribution for your music.
Out of all the music distributors out there, they are the only ones that will collect your SoundExchange royalties for you.
They have a very moving video to explain the company that is worth watching.
The last, but by all means not least is TuneCore, a music distributor based in the Big Apple (NYC) and founded in 2005. As with all the others, they will put your music in all major stores in the world and collect all royalties for you.
The feature I think is the greatest from them is what they call “Music Publishing Administration”, which is a one-stop shop for all the statistics and real-time follow up of your music and money. They have one of the best teams in the business to do it and really excel.
For more information, this 4-minute video is great.
How to prepare your music before sending to Pandora
There are several things you should bear in mind before sending your content to Pandora; let’s take a look at the most important ones:
- Professional sound – When you enter the Pandora realm, the divisions of whom invested more in the recording, mixing and mastering of the tracks are no longer existent. If your band sounds somewhat similar to Coldplay, you’ll be queued after them and, after hearing a track with impeccable production and a good sound, a mediocre-sounding track will get a thumbs-down. Work on the sound of your tracks so they will be up to world standards; you’re playing the major leagues now. Some music distributors like TuneCore, CDBaby and iMusician can help you with it establishing a minimum specs and converting your music to fit the requirements.
- Legal rights to your music – Make sure you have the rights over the music you are submitting to Pandora. This can be a thing when you are submitting on your behalf music from a band and not quoting all writers.
- Write a killer bio – If you write beautiful music that works as wonderful songs, then you have to write a great bio to haunt listeners to know more about you. Most artists abandon the DIY approach for this and hire a professional writer to do it.
- Metadata & artwork – All music distributors and also Pandora will ask your music to be uploaded featuring metadata. Make sure you upload a killer cover and good metadata so your music is not lost in limbo.
- Patience, lots of patience – Submissions to Pandora go through real human filters and that takes time. Try not to lose it in that moment, keep calm and wait for Pandora.
These are the FAQs for distributing on Pandora
You are not the first or the last to have a bunch of questions regarding distributing your music (or your label’s) on Pandora. Let’s answer some of the most common ones.
– How long does it take to get my music on Pandora?
There is no real time frame from the company for the artists as for when the music will finally be processed and appear on the radio. They offer a real-time tool for you to check the status of the order. It can take anytime between days to weeks.
– How many submissions can I send at the same time?
The platform will only allow you to send one production at the time, regardless if it is a single, an EP or a whole album. To upload several pieces you’ll have to make several requests.
– How much does Pandora pay?
Bear in mind that all royalties paid to your music distributor (CDBaby, TuneCore, iMusician or anyone you choose) will then be paid by them to you depending on the plan you choose. This is partly why choosing the right music distributor is crucial.
- Digital royalties/neighboring rights – These are the royalties that you make for your music in the non-interactive part of Pandora (radio stations) in which people stream your music without actually choosing your songs. These are not publishing royalties. The featured artist gets 45%, non-featured artists 5% (session musicians) and the owner of the recording gets 50%.
- Performance royalties – These royalties are the same as the classical radio royalties have always been which is 50% for the songwriter (if the song is yours, this is your money, if it’s a cover song goes to the original songwriter) and 50% to the publisher.
- Sound recording license fee – This is standard for all streaming services and it is similar to what other platforms pay. These will be paid to you for the interactive streaming service (AKA Pandora Plus and Premium).
- Mechanical royalties – Every play (physical or stream) of recorded music generates a mechanical royalty. These royalties have been collected historically by publishers and then cascaded to artists.
When your music gets played on Pandora, you receive all of these royalties depending on your plan.
– How do you get paid by Pandora?
First of all, you need to have a SoundExchange account. This is a non-profit organization that distributes digital performance royalties upon collection to copyright holders and featured artists.
The other portion of the payment is paid to the music distributor that should, then, pay it to you, the songwriter.
Getting your music on a streaming and internet radio service with over 80 million active users per month curated by a team of musicologists is a great idea.
The good news is that you can submit your content for free to the Pandora Radio side of the site and get money for the neighboring rights. Adding to that, if you have your music in one of the major music distributors above, you can apply to have your music on Premium and Plus as well.
This is the 21st century and there are absolutely no excuses not to have your music in the ears of the entire world. Especially if you are an emerging artist, Pandora can be of great help.