I’ve been pretty disparaging about Pandora’s business acumen in the past (twice). I love the service because it’s just so quick and easy to ‘get’ and I was intrigued by the Music Genome Project. Or, should I say, ‘loved’ – because, being non-American, I can’t use it anymore.
If you’re resident outside the US you probably received a similar email early in January 2008:
hi, it’s Tim,
This is an email I hoped I would never have to send.
As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US.
Suddenly, I feel very bad. I castigated Pandora for, well, being incompetent or so I thought. It seems however that they’ve genuinely been trying to make it work despite a music industry that cannot get its head around the opportunities afforded by online music distribution.
EMI is already suffering, quite simply because it’s been taken over by someone who actually gets what’s going on. People don’t buy CDs any more. They download. They listen. They interact with other people who listen and download. People, and their preferences, are key. Not what executives think.
If I were an entrepreneur in the music industry I would look to enterprises such as Pandora as the best way to publicise my product. I have bought music on the back of the wonderfully creative Pandora algorithms.
And this is truly why I’m sad. Because, now that I’ve moved across to Last.fm – who are probably also in trouble but are less open about it than Pandora – I find that I’m listening to music I already know. I just moved from Beck to Flaming Lips to Radiohead, all of which I’m familiar with. Pandora would throw lovely unexpected moves at me. Last.fm isn’t doing this – yet.
Plus, it’s taken me a short while – just a short one, but a while nevertheless – to get myself up and running with Last.fm. And if I want to get other people interested in it, I have to persuade them to download software, which I didn’t with Pandora.
And is it just me, or does Last.fm keep skipping momentarily, while Pandora’s feed was rock-steady?
Oh well. Maybe I should emigrate to the USA then I can enjoy it all over again.