pandoraWhat if Pandora had more ways of making money?

Pandora, a site where you can basically create a radio station that is right for you, has been one of my favorite websites for the past few years. But based on everything I’ve read, more revenue streams would be a good thing for them. So here are some thoughts:

I’ll start with what Pandora does now. I think there current graphical advertising is actually pretty smart. They do custom skins around the “radio” that are for specific advertisers. What’s smart here is that they don’t take the lazy way out and just stick a banner ad or a 300 X 250 nearby. They increase recall of the ad message due to the unconventional size/design. And most importantly (and most novel) is they change the advertising skin every time you skip a song, rate something, or change stations. They know this is a natural point of user attention and leverage this to swap ads. As a brand manager, this is a compelling value proposition for my message. So hat tip to Pandora.

What if Pandora became the advertising platform for new artists?

How? Basically, an artist (the advertiser) would pay to have their songs inserted in relevant users radio station by selecting other artists that they feel they sound like/their fans also like. So I’d get 5 “regular” songs based on my tastes, and then the sixth one would be “sponsored”. It’s still music, so it’s not as jarring as an ad, but for it to be effective for the advertiser, it would also have to be a song that the listener would probably like anyway. This way Pandora’s “music DNA” becomes their secret algorithm for ad matching & new artist discovery. There are like 5 other things I have to add to this product, but short of the writing the actual spec, I’ll stop here. Pandora can contact me for the rest 🙂

I’m a new band that has our first album and have picked our our singles. I know that our music sounds like & most of our fans also like Bruce Springsteen & E-Street Band and Pete Yorn. I go into Pandora, prepay for 1000 “plays” (a sort of pay-per-click) and pick Bruce & Yorn as relevant tastes. Only users who like Springsteen and Yorn would get this “sponsored” song in their stream. Everyone wins (the sign of a great monetization model): artists have very few venues to get discovered, and users will only get “sponsored” songs that they would probably like and will have a method to discover new music.

I really like this idea because it would seem in our digital world the record labels are soon to be obsolete. If you’re an artist you primarily need two things a) promotion and b) distribution. iTunes and the like have distribution taken care of. Once any garage band or corner rapper can get their music in front of the right person at a relatively low cost, and distribution is effectively free we have the trappings of a really healthy music eco-system.

What is this?
This is part of a regular series I’m writing about companies (online and offline) and ideas that I would execute if I was running them. To subscribe to just these marketing/monetization type what if articles, click here. For all my random thoughts, use this link. To give me lots of money so I can give you more ideas contact me.

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