A View on Pandora From Indie Rock
I love hearing from everybody, but there's something especially powerful about getting the perspective of people directly involved with independent music.
I'm not going to editorialize much here. Instead, I will relay what Chris Maltese, a partner at Primary Wave Talent Management , had to say via email. Chris manages indie names such as Secondhand Serenade and Bronze Radio Return , a band Pandora
For the record, Pandora got me in touch with Chris after I commented publicly and privately about how much I like Bronze Radio Return in both public and private discussions about Pandora's role in promoting independent music. I did not feed Chris a list of questions; rather I just asked him for his thoughts on the current state of Internet radio and the music industry as it relates to indie acts and the ongoing dustup over royalties.
Here's a good bit of what Chris had to say:
Aside from the money itself, the reach these artists get can be invaluable. There are countless times that my artists (especially Bronze Radio Return) have had people come up to them saying they discovered their music on Pandora. BRR specifically has a song that is from 2 albums ago, which never had a video or any sort of real promo outside of a few tv syncs, and that song (titled "Worth Wondering) was the biggest selling song in the band's history until just recently when their new single which has a big push on it (radio campaign, a video and a sync in a national PGA commercial) surpassed that song in sales. And its all because the song ("Worth Wondering") was somehow added to the Mumford & Sons Pandora station, exposing it to a huge new pool of potential fans.
So long story short, I am a huge fan of Pandora and what they are doing to aid in the discovery process. I have also visited their headquarters and dealt with some of the staff on a more personal level and can say that I do think they are very interested in being a helpful source for artists. They are real music people. And they hire real music people.
Here, Chris Maltese speaks directly about royalties and Pandora's attempt to secure lower rates:
I think at the heart of it though, there will be a compromise. There HAS to be a compromise. Everyone, especially the indie artists, will feel the effects if the current model is unsustainable and Pandora can no longer survive. As an industry, we must allow it not only survive but to thrive. They need to have the ability to maintain as well as grow and improve. Even though they are at the top of the food chain in this space currently, we all know that could change quickly (MySpace was a good example) especially with all of the new competition. So they need to have the ability to develop.
The real question here is where is the line drawn between sustaining/having the ability to grow, and taking advantage of artists for financial benefit? I've seen numbers thrown around about how much Pandora has raised or how much revenue they've brought in within a given quarter, or how much their subscription model has grown. But what I am still unclear on is what their operating costs are and what are they capable of doing with further money that is made in terms of development. What improvements can they make to add value to the artists community which help to spread the wealth a bit?
Maltese went on to say that he's not in favor of Pandora taking a larger piece of the pie if it the company just intends to line its own pockets. I don't believe that's the case and it doesn't sound Maltese thinks it is either.