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Pandora is now officially extremely interesting

Very interested in this news from Pandora about a new ‘Stories’ feature for music and podcast creators to add, well, stories about their work for listeners.

This interests me for two completely unrelated reasons. Firstly I feel very strongly that the stories around music is being lost in our streaming world. As I’ve said before, I love my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, but I have a real issue with the fact that for much of the music on it, no actually almost all the music on it as I try very hard to make sure it only has new music on it, I have absolutely NO IDEA who most of the artists are.

I love the fact that I get exposed to lots and lots of new music, but I really wish I knew more about them than just the artist and song name. Yes I can click around and find out more, but it can sometimes take a lot of detective work to find out who exactly they are, if they’re part of a scene, on a label with other similar artists, etc. All the things that in the pre-digital world usually came without us even noticing when we came across new music (whether from radio, word of mouth, magazines, record shops, etc).

Losing the stories around so many new music discoveries feels like a huge loss to me and so I hope this new Pandora feature or others like it from other services will start to fill that gap.

The other reason I’m very interested in this is because this is the first news about Pandora I’m aware of since the completion of its merger with SiriusXM (proprietor Liberty Media). Pandora has frequently been left out of the conversation about music streaming and subscriptions over the last 10 years or so given its distinct business model (personalised radio as opposed to the on demand streaming of Spotify, Apple Music, etc) and for most of the time little business outside of the US.

However now part of SiriusXM/Liberty, Pandora has suddenly become more than a major competitor to the big streaming players, but with a few exceptions, it doesn’t yet feel like the industry conversation has caught up with these new facts on the ground. And it should, very quickly, because Pandora, through its combination with SiriusXM, all of a sudden now has major plays in original content (through SiriusXM’s exclusive radio content, Howard Stern, etc) and a direct line into millions of US cars which already have a billing relationship with SiriusXM as well as its existing on demand Spotify-style service. In other words, everything its competitors are figuring out for their next steps, it already at its fingertips, and at major scale.

And that’s not even mentioning the business background of Liberty Media and its boss John C Malone. In short, they don’t mess around. They are a competitor deserving of your full attention and respect.

I don’t know whether this new stories feature from Pandora will end up being significant or not, but either way I do know Pandora turned overnight into the most significant competitor to every other streaming player. Watch that space very closely. We’re all going to learn a lot.

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