Streaming

Pandora's New 'Stories' Tool Lets Artists Attach Voice Commentary to Songs

Pandora
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With the new feature, artists can intersperse voice tracks between songs on a playlist, adding commentary ranging from personal stories and inspirations to calls-to-action.

Pandora hopes to fuse the benefits of playlists and podcasts with the launch of a new artist marketing tool: Pandora Stories.

Through the new feature announced Tuesday (Feb. 26), artists can intersperse voice tracks between songs on a playlist, adding commentary ranging from personal stories and inspirations to calls-to-action directing listeners to content like an album or online article. Stories is housed within Pandora's Artist Marketing Platform (AMP), a suite of free, self-serve marketing tools for creators that includes analytics service Next Big Sound.

“Pandora Stories exemplifies our mission to continually innovate for both our millions of listeners and for artists and creators of all kinds using the power of music,” said the streaming service's chief product officer, Chris Phillips, in a statement. “Pandora’s first-of-its-kind Artist Marketing Platform set the standard for empowering creators in the music streaming space, and continues to lead the way.”

After creating a "program," such as a playlist or mixtape, creators can upload voice tracks and sequence them to play before or after a specific song, or alongside random content within the program. From there, Pandora Premium subscribers can listen to Pandora Stories ad-free, while Pandora ad-supported and Plus users can do so via Premium Access after watching a 30-second ad.

For each voice track, creators are able to see the number of listeners, average minutes listened per listener, the skip rate and more metrics.

While voice tracks can link out of Pandora to a merch stores or tour sites, for instance, they can't link to a competitive service like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon or SoundCloud. Bundled links, such as Linkfire links, are allowed as long as they include Pandora. As might be expected, explicit language and copyrighted material aren't allowed, nor are brand endorsements. 

Pandora tapped an all-star roster for its first collection of Stories released Tuesday that features John Legend explaining how his greatest hits came to be, Daddy Yankee recounting his journey to reggaeton star in Spanish, country artist Lauren Alaina chatting about the musical heroes of her childhood and more. But Pandora hopes that Stories will also open the platform up to a wider field of creators, from actors and filmmakers to athletes, authors and anyone else drawn to music-driven storytelling.

“Podcasts can tell stories about music but it’s difficult to include full songs, and standard playlists have songs but lack personal context from the artists behind them,” added Jeff Zuchowski, vice president of artist marketing and industry relations at Pandora. “We’ve created Pandora Stories to fill that void, bringing together the greatest strengths of both podcasts and playlists, and giving artists the opportunity to connect with listeners on a uniquely deep and personal level.”

The new feature comes just weeks after Pandora was officially acquired by satellite radio giant SiriusXM in a $3.5 billion deal. Stories reflects what seems to be an industry-wide push by streaming services to find new ways to put artists first on their platforms, evidenced by a string of new marketing tools recently made available to creators. SoundCloud and Spotify have bolstered their artist offerings in recent months, offering a new distribution feature and a direct upload option, respectively. On Pandora, AMP also includes audio messaging, a "Featured" option to boost a song across numerous stations and other engines that bring artists closer to fans.

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