- Pandora debuted a tool called Pandora Stories that lets creators make playlists that combine music tracks with their audio commentary, according to a company announcement. Subscribers to the premium streaming service can hear the stories ad-free, while other listeners gain access after watching a 30-second ad, Engadget reported.
- Pandora Stories is part of the company's Artist Marketing Platform (AMP), a suite of free, self-serve software tools for artists who want to promote their songs, albums and podcasts. "When combined with Pandora's artist marketing and data analytics tools, Pandora Stories gives Creators the industry's leading toolkit to connect to their listeners." Shamal Ranasinghe, VP of creators product, said in the announcement.
- Musical artists John Legend and Perry Farrell are among the first to record narration that's interspersed with their songs through the new platform. Artists, authors and other creators also can use Pandora's catalog of fully licensed songs to add to their narrated playlists.
Pandora Stories is an interesting format that combines licensed music tracks with podcast-like content. The format is mostly geared toward recording artists and labels that want to promote their music and reach fans in a more authentic fashion, but mobile marketers have an opportunity to place audio spots into the ad-supported version of Pandora. The voice tracks can't include any brand endorsements, according to Pandora's guidelines, which means that mobile marketers can't set up Pandora Stories as a playlist of songs interspersed with their own promotional messages. Pandora requires prospective creators to submit an application for review, presumably to screen out anyone who may abuse the format.
For Pandora, the Stories format is another way for the company to distinguish its platform from rivals like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and Amazon Prime Music — at least until they create their own versions of Stories. Any streaming company can license the same song catalogs from record labels and artists, making original content from creators and curators a key competitive strategy.
Competition has intensified among streaming companies in the past year. Sirius XM, which completed its acquisition of Pandora this month, has 100 million listeners in North America and about 40 million paid subscribers. Spotify has 207 million monthly active users worldwide, including 96 million premium subscribers and 116 million ad-supported users, as of Q4 2018. Apple Music has a user base of 50 million paid subscribers, although the iPhone maker has a stronger presence than Spotify in the U.S. Apple seeks broader distribution of its services as iPhones sales begin to slow, and will soon make Apple Music available on Google Home speakers, according to CNBC.
Meanwhile, the streaming industry faces a possible regulatory challenge. The Justice Department and lawmakers are weighing whether to overhaul music licensing rules that have pitted songwriters and publishers against digital streaming services, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.