Last week, I ventured out to see a band I had discovered on Pandora – El Ten Eleven. I’ve known about them since 2009, when their song, “My Only Swerving,” emerged onto one of my radio stations.
Ever since I graduated college and moved to a place where bands actually visit, I’ve been periodically checking to see whether El Ten Eleven is making any East Coast tours. But they usually don’t, because they’re a West Coast band and incredibly obscure.
After all, they’re not just an instrumental band, they’re a duo. Yup, that’s right – there’s a drummer and bassist-guitarist guy. When they finally did come around to Boston, I grabbed tickets. I brought friends.
“Who are they?” Friends asked.
“Don’t worry about it, I found them on Pandora,” I said. And I wasn’t the only one.
The Upside of Pandora
Musicians have a tenuous relationship with internet radio services like Pandora and Spotify at best. I’ve written in the past about how the uncertain revenue and ephemeral “rights” of musicians are kind of screwed by the current model. Then again, they’ve been getting screwed by entitled consumers who aren’t willing to pay for music for a long, long time.
For me, though, Pandora is a discovery engine for music I’m going to buy. There’s no way that it’s not benefical to the bands. Take another band I saw this summer, STS9. I bought three albums and have seen them perform twice, because I heard one song on Pandora.
And I still listen to those songs on Pandora. So the band is getting paid for the album and paid for that same catalog by Pandora whenever I listen to the song online.
More than 20% of the artists on my iTunes are bands I found on Pandora.
Unfortunately, Active Music Pursuers are the minority. If they weren’t, then YouTube views or Pandora plays would mean a lot more (instead of a few hundred bucks for 14 million plays). Your band’s music would reach new listeners and said listeners would purchase your albums.
While that hasn’t exactly been a clear-cut path, the El Ten Eleven show was a powerful demonstration of Pandora’s ability to drive show attendance.
The Pandora Paradigm
I brought two friends to the show. These two friends had been introduced to El Ten Eleven by me. They hadn’t bought any albums, but they knew the band’s sounds and were willing to see them live.
To my surprise, I met three other people I knew at the concert. They were all in groups, too. The story was the same for literally every person I asked: someone had discovered El Ten Eleven on Pandora and decided to bring friends.
The Pandora Paradigm is important, because it shows the most powerful type of marketing there is: word-of-mouth. In other words, Advocacy Marketing (which author marketing platform Libboo is trying to bring online).
The venue was full. Fuller than El Ten Eleven expected. Even the guitarist said that he was surprised so many people knew about them.
And Pandora had helped. I’m not sure by how much, but there were at least ten people I knew who had been brought there by the nefarious internet radio service. So what does this teach us?
Pandora has to partner with bands
It’s almost an insanely easy solution: in the mid-range band market, there aren’t any powerhouses anymore. Labels can help, but they still struggle to get the word out about shows and really push people to join them.
Pandora is a unique way to showcase music. By having customizable band pages (maybe even charging bands $5/mo to do so) that are integrated with TicketMaster, local venue websites, social media sites and other channels, everyone wins.
That’s been my one complaint about finding music on Pandora – I always need to do secondary research on YouTube before buying an album.
Picture it: You’re listening to a song and you like it. You absently give it a thumbs up. But you’ve checked a box at some point that tells Pandora to tell you when that band is playing a show in your area.
Pandora already has your zip code and your email. They send you an email about the show. Could they turn into a TicketMaster for indie bands? An automated promoter? A marketing platform for musicians?
The market for emerging bands that are popular but will never be the next One Direction or Mumford and Sons (what passes as “indie”) is huge, but no one knows how to tap it, control it or make money from it.
But the pieces are all there – they’re just scattered in a bunch of different pockets.