Between the breadth of data tools available for musicians and the amount of support that digital distributors are able to offer to creators these days, there’s never been a better time to be an indie artist. On Wednesday, Pandora announced a revamp of its Artist Marketing Platform (AMP) to fold indie artists more cleanly into the mix.
Pandora’s AMP — a suite of analytic features that allow musicians to see granular information such as their song-by-song spins, market reach, and demographics, comparable to the popular analytics dashboards offered by Spotify and Apple Music — will now include an independent artist submission tool. Through this, self-releasing artists can get their music across the desks of Pandora’s data scientists, have it analyzed by the company’s signature Music Genome Project, and see it put into regular rotation in users’ Pandora radio stations alongside mega-hits from big stars. The indie submission tool has existed in the past, but lived in a standalone platform.
“This tool ensures that indie artists are going to be heard by somebody at Pandora. Our curators will listen to their music and put it in to be analyzed so it can ultimately get onto radio stations,” Shamal Ranasinghe, Pandora’s vice president of product management for catalog and creators, tells Rolling Stone, adding that indie artists can also describe their music for Pandora’s data scientists in their own words and offer up other information that can help tailor their fit into users’ Pandora radio stations. The team expects a “steady state of 1,000 submissions a week,” though first-week submissions are likely to be much higher.
Ranasinghe says Pandora is keen to support DIY artists as well as do more to apply its sophistication in data science, which many in the industry see as the company’s greatest edge over rival services.
“Getting music onto streaming services — that’s super easy, and there are a lot of programs that do that today practically for free,” Ranasinghe says, pointing to distribution companies like Distrokid, CD Baby and Tunecore that service independent artists. (That’s perhaps also the reason Spotify recently shut down its direct upload program: It wasn’t fixing the right problem.)
Through AMP, indie artists can also create artist audio messages and “Pandora Stories,” which are song-and-podcast mixtapes meant to tell a deeper story about their music. The expansion of these tools comes at time when the personalization of content is seen as increasingly valuable — even for major chart-toppers with secured fanbases. Taylor Swift, for example, whose seventh album Lover is out this Friday, has been partnering all week with Spotify to release custom spoken content and audio “love letters” for fans ahead of the release.
Ranasinghe says he believes the “biggest inefficiency in the music industry today” is artists’ lack of ability to easily expand their audience. “How do they promote themselves? Get in front of audiences? You listen to a band sometimes and you know their music should be played to audiences 10 times bigger,” he says. “These are problems we can solve with data science; by not just putting the music on a playlist, but finding the right people to put it in front of at the right moment.”