Industry Spotlight: Talking About Artists With Pandora

Songtrust interviews Pandora AMP about artist's in today's music industry.

PANDORA’S Artist Marketing Platform (AMP) is a suite of free, self-serve marketing tools to help artists promote their music and careers. These tools support the artist’s goals of breaking music, connecting with fans, and making more money – both on and off Pandora. The marketing tools on AMP are supplemented by artist data insights and analytics on Next Big Sound. We sat down with Heather Ellis, from Pandora's marketing team, to talk about artists - from how the industry has changed to the tools now available - and why it's never been a better time to be a songwriter. 


How do you think the music industry has changed for artists in the last 10 years?

I think artists are getting more and more control as time goes on. The way that streaming in particular has evolved has made it possible for artists to have much longer legs, so to speak, and reach fans all over the world. It’s still not easy to “make it” – you could argue that competition is actually more fierce than it’s ever been - but it’s certainly easier to send a link to a song around the world than it is to get radio play or a physical distribution deal in a country you’ve never been to.

Why is this such a great time to be an artist?

Ten years ago, I was in a tiny DIY band trying to play and record around the DC area. Even just ten years ago, there were so many fewer tools available to artists, and especially to artists without teams to support them. There was no Kickstarter to crowd fund recording and touring costs or streaming services to easily share music at scale. Social media was in its infancy. Artist insights and analytics were barely a thing. Further back in time, the landscape was even more localized and opaque. The sheer amount of data and tools that artists have today make it so much easier to establish a large footprint, geographically and online, and connect with fans.

What kind of tools and platforms are available to artists today that weren’t available in the past?

The number of tools available to artists today is astounding! There are tools & platforms to assist with every single aspect of an artist’s career: from making music, to creating video and social content, to distributing and marketing new releases. Platforms like Next Big Sound are extremely helpful because they aggregate data from multiple sources into a single interface and help artists take action based on what that data shows. It’s much, much easier than trying to track social and streaming platforms individually. Artists should also take advantage of free opportunities (especially considering that some very important services are NOT free) like the marketing tools on Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform. Promoting new music, selling tickets, and connecting with fans is fast and easy with AMP. At the end of the day, artist marketing is all about maximizing impact with the simplest, most effective strategy.

Why do you think it’s more important now than ever for artists/musicians to also focus on being good business people?

Now, more than ever, an artist’s opportunity for success depends on their ability to hustle just as much as it depends on the quality of their music. There is a lot of high-quality music out there, but if an artist builds a solid foundation for themselves, it’s less of a risk for a manager or label to invest in them. If they’re not interested in partnering with a manager or label, it’s all the more important that they know how to build a marketing and growth strategy on their own. Luckily, there are tons of resources out there to help.

So many artists are taking a DIY approach to their careers, what do you think the pros/cons of being a DIY artist is?

Being a DIY artist obviously offers a lot of control but it also brings a lot of responsibility. You’re able to set your own schedule and keep 100% of your earnings, but on the flip side, you don’t have the help or support that comes with a team. I often recommend that artists stay DIY until it becomes overwhelming or they stop growing.

On the opposite end, what do you think are the pros/ cons of having a team behind an artist?

Once an artist’s career starts taking off, sustaining it is a full time job for more than one person. Juggling the business of being an artist and the actual creative process of being an artist can get overwhelming very quickly, so having a team to take care of the business points relieves a lot of pressure. Plus, a team brings expertise that artists might not have. It’s important to master the basics as a DIY artist, but at a certain point, a team is necessary to lift you up.

What hardships, if any, do you think artists face now compared to in the past?

There is a ton of competition these days. I’m sure there were just as many talented creators in the past, but as I said before – technology is making it easier than ever to record and release music, and while that’s amazingly helpful for individual artists, it does mean there are more individuals creating and sharing music than ever. Now, differentiating yourself and promoting yourself are crucial to a degree I just don’t think they were before.

How do you think artists should define success in today’s music industry?

Success can look very different to any given artist, depending on their goals. To me, a successful career in the industry means you’re able to make a living doing music. That could mean you support yourself 100% through recording and touring, but it could also mean that you gig locally and teach lessons to supplement your income. That being said, my definition of success isn’t universal – to some artists, success might be writing one hit song or releasing a large volume of recordings.

The industry is growing and becoming more modernized every year, but what about the industry do you think still needs to change that can ultimately benefit artists?

The music industry and a lot of its processes were built before the internet happened and did not adapt well as the world changed. Antiquated systems and complicated business models make it difficult for artists to make sure their bases are covered and they’re taking advantage of all opportunities to make and collect money. On the whole, we’re working to update these systems and processes, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Where do you think the music industry is heading?

The industry is on the upswing! Although it’s been slow to adapt to technology, it’s learning how to support artists and fans and turn a profit. That being said, we should not rest on our laurels. If we’ve learned anything, we’ve learned that technology continually challenges our habits. What we consider to be the Most Important Thing today is almost definitely not going to be the Most Important Thing forever, and we should do our best to keep one step ahead. That’s how my team is thinking at Pandora.  

What’s new for AMP/Pandora?

If I do say so myself, Pandora is kicking ass with innovations right now. We’ve hit the ground running with the best free on-demand offering of any streaming service, and we’re constantly adding new features to make Pandora Premium the most user friendly listening and discovery experience available. On the AMP side, our main objective is to facilitate artist development, so we’re actively exploring every way to reach that goal. We’ve already democratized music marketing by offering the same set of free, industry-leading tools to all artists on Pandora. Next, we’re tackling the listener experience by giving creators the power to shape and contextualize what their fans and followers hear. All the while, we’re constantly iterating on the science behind our existing tools to ensure that we’re giving artists their best possible chance for success. We first consider the artist’s goals – breaking music, connecting with fans, and making money – then we build tools to help them.

As part of Songtrust's continued mission to support and supply songwriters and artists with insights and resources to be successful, we're collaborating with like-minded companies globally to discuss relevant topics in the music industry. These interviews are purely for educational purposes and do not indicate a partnership or exchange of services. 

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