Pandora’s VP of Product For Creators Shamal Ranasinghe on “Enabling The Artist Revolution”

image from“A key to enabling the artist revolution is to give all creators the means to introduce their new music most efficiently, almost perfectly, to new audiences… (this is) the Holy Grail,” says Shamal Ranasinghe, Pandora’s VP Product for Creators, Artists and Content Operations. The streamer’s Artist Marketing Platform (AMP), which launched new features yesterday, comes as close as anything available to reaching this promised land.


Shamal Ranasinghe is a music tech veteran whose career has been dedicated to artist empowerment. He co-founded Topspin, the first full service direct fan platform for musicians. Now, as Pandora’s VP Product for Creators, Artists and Content Operations, his team is building AMP, Pandora’s free Artist Marketing Platform.

Centered around targeted artist audio messaging and analytics, AMP is an evolving toolkit designed to help artists connect with fans and grow their fanbase. In this new post from his personal Mad Respect blog, Ranasinghe shares his vision of the tools that are being built and need to be built to “to give all creators the means to introduce their new music most efficiently, almost perfectly, to new audiences.”

Shamal Ranasinghe:

It’s a glorious time for music fans. All the music we could ever want is available at our fingertips. We can get a highly curated and personalized music experience on any device to navigate through the infinite sea of sounds and artists. The revolution has happened for fans. The machines we have created to access and discover music will never deny us, and it will only get better.

The revolution hasn’t quite happened in the same way for artists or their supporting creator ecosystem. While it is certainly better today than in the past in connecting artists to their existing fans, there are no effective systems that enable creators to find new fans at scale and grow their audiences. Most artists can’t afford high cost radio promotion, and current methods like paying for banner ads on facebook, google, etc. are a mixed bag. They are blunt instruments blasting out promotion seldom in the proper context. It’s hard to track, so the ROI is dubious, and hence it all feels like a waste of money.

A key to enabling the artist revolution is to give all creators the means to introduce their new music most efficiently, almost perfectly, to new audiences. Those of us working to advance the fate of creators and artists affectionately call the machine to enable this, the Holy Grail. Artists would use it to promote a new single, and it would systematically find all the true fans who would love to connect with that new song.

Holy grail

[Image credit: Lucasfilm Archives]

The Holy Grail for Creators has long been elusive since it’s been near impossible to combine a massive audience with the self-serve capability to promote any new single to the right people at the precisely the right time. This is particularly hard to do with new music since those songs do not have any runtime or traction, and it’s even harder to do if it’s a new artist trying to break through.

At Pandora we have the ingredients to crack the code and build the Holy Grail. Pandora has the largest audience of music streamers in the US (76M) listening on average 24 hours a month, which is the most time spent in any app in the US. The Artist Marketing Platform (AMP) is available self-serve to ALL artists on Pandora, so the creator ecosystem is completely empowered to promote anything that’s important to them. Creators have received over one billion impressions and spins of artist audio messages. To commemorate this recent milestone, we’ve announced more powerful features for AMP. These systems are only getting better as demonstrated by the Pandora Data Science team finding new and better ways to quantify the artist-fan-connection. See Kat Glaeser’s piece on our Artist Affinity Score.

The data science that connects the songs that artists are promoting to the massive audience of listeners on Pandora is the most important part of the artist-fan equation. By harnessing hundreds of billions data points, Pandora can more precisely find the true fans for newly promoted music. It all starts with the Music Genome, which analyzes the attributes of a new song to jump-start it into the radio and recommendation systems. From there listener thumbing and engagement behavior are used by Pandora’s algorithms to find more new fans and listening opportunities for promoted songs. Artists and creators can get data on how their songs performed in AMP before deciding which one to promote as a new Featured Track. In a recent post, the Pandora Data Science team expands on our Featured Track approach and explains the science and process of promoting a new single at scale. Check out Andrew Asman’s work on helping artists find new fans with our Featured Tracks.

These new Featured Track song targeting techniques find more unique radio stations to play a promoted single in Pandora and within those stations find the specific fans who are most likely to enjoy the new single. These new found listeners are on average 83% likely to give the Featured Track a thumbs up, which results in increased spins and more people listening. The impact is felt more for emerging and middle-class artists who spin less than 1000 plays a day. These artists experience a 2-5x increase in spins per day during the promotional period of a Featured Track.

Featured Track Impact

Pandora Featured Track finds true fans who are genuinely likely to thumb up that new single resulting in more sustained growth for artists. It’s an effective way for artists to connect long-term to more engaged fans compared to getting placed on a random popular playlist or broadcasted to everyone without targeting science.

Most algorithmic approaches that introduce music to people optimize on behalf of the listener. These methods do not consider what the artist and label want to promote at any given time. Pandora’s Featured Tracks, however, puts the power in the hands of the artist and label by letting them promote whichever song they want simply, immediately, and for no cost. It’s worth repeating — ALL artists and labels, big and small on Pandora can promote their new singles for free unlike other networks and services that charge you to find new fans. Not a bad ROI.

It’s completely self-serve so you don’t need to know someone who knows someone or have to pick up the phone and talk to anyone. If you are spinning on Pandora, login to AMP today and use Featured Tracks to promote your new single and find more fans. There is no editorial monopoly or gatekeeping. All artists, creators, labels can promote their new music today.

As incredible as these features are, it’s important to recognize that there are no silver bullets or panaceas in artist marketing. These tools can help new songs find likely fans but once there, the fans either like the song or not, which ultimately determines how often that song plays and to whom. The best practice is to use all the tools available across all the networks and services to promote your music. It’s relentless and essential. Spend your time efficiently, however, and gravitate to the ones that you can access yourselves, where you are completely in control, and which will have the most impact. Pandora’s AMP is the leading contender in meeting all those unique needs. If you’re spinning on Pandora and have not had a chance to check it out, log in now and make the most of it.

If you are like us and not happy with the status quo, drop us a line to share the work you are doing to help artists find new fans and reach their full potential. If you appreciate the mission and ethos in this post or the great work of our Pandora data science team in either promoting creators or connecting them to their fansreach out and connect. Let’s work together to bring the revolution to artists.

Pandora AMP

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