Forget about all the "are they or aren't they" talk… Clear Channel and Pandora are definitely working towards a deal that would allow the radio conglomerate to offer the Pandora personalized radio service via its websites. And this is a good thing all around.
Now the situation is rather dicey for Pandora. The little-company-that-could has built a loyal following among the digerati and indie music hipsters who see the service as the antithesis of everything they hate in terrestrial radio (most of which they blame on Clear Channel, right or wrong).
So in flirting with the devil by partnering with Clear Channel, Pandora could rile some its the overly breathless fanboys who will likely see it as some kind of betrayal.
Pandora, like every other Internet radio startup, is behind the 8-ball of a rather large hike in licensing rates thanks to the new Copyright Royalty Board ruling. Founder Tim Westergren has repeatedly said the service may have to shut down, and already shuttered international versions of the site. A deal with the deep-pocketed Clear Channel is just what it needs to both stay afloat financially and expose the service to new users.
Those whining about it are like the fans of the obscure indie band that suddenly made it big selfishly crying "sellout." They'd rather see it die in flames before sharing it with the unwashed masses of mainstream music consumption.
And for Clear Channel, partnering with a popular, proven, best-of-breed technology partner makes a lot more sense than trying to develop a competing product in-house. It's also a clear sign that Clear Channel wants to evolve its online offerings to a more interactive level.
Now I get that Internet radio is meant to pose a challenge to dominant forces like Clear Channel, and a lot of hopes were riding on Pandora to carry that standard. But isn't the whole point to create a competitive threat so that terrestrial radio would adopt a more democratic approach to its programming? Isn't that what Clear Channel is doing, to a degree, by incorporating the Pandora functionality?
It's only a matter of time before some big digital music company just buys Pandora outright anyway. Pairing a leader in new-media radio with a leader of the old-school format not only makes sense… it's ultimately necessary for either to remain relevant in the future.
Just because Apple agreed to sell HBO series at two different prices, doesn't mean it's suddenly open to doing the same with music.
Too many pundits are confusing how Apple treats video on iTunes with how it treats music. Apple implements a subscription model to buy TV series, and suddenly it's a sign that similar models are imminent for music. Apple allows movie rentals, and suddenly we're on the verge of renting music.
The fact is, music has become an afterthought over there at iTunes ever since the video service got started. There's far more competition developing in the online video space, and Apple needs to focus on capturing as large a market share as it can in that format while it watches its music competitors fruitlessly stumble around.
Digital video is not the test case for digital music. Consumers are already well accustomed to renting movies and not owning them. They're accustomed to watching advertising interspersed with their TV shows. They're accustomed to paying a monthly subscription fee for cable programming they don't "own."
Providing digital versions of the same model is hardly a stretch… heck, it's meeting a demand. When Apple started off selling TV shows and movies, its lack of a rental model was considered its weakest link. Yet selling individual songs and albums is considered the only workable model with digital music these days.
Apple may one day offer a music subscription service, and it may even work. But looking for signs of such in Apple's video-related actions will definitely keep you on the wrong channel.