Love podcasts and songs? How about podcasts from your favorite musicians? That’s the idea behind Pandora’s eponymous Pandora Stories, a “new listening experience” aimed at fostering fan-artist connections through sound bytes interspersed in playlists.
Pandora describes Stories, which today launched with contributions from John Legend, Daddy Yankee, Perry Farrell, Randall Poster, Tom Brenneck, and others, as “interludes” during which creators share anecdotes about songs, fellow artists, and muses. These could also be described as bite-sized open mic sessions.
In a Legend-authored Pandora Story titled Glorious Journey, for instance, the EGOT winner reveals that he sang “All of Me” — which was inspired by Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” — at his wedding. In another Story, Daddy Yankee, who’s originally from Puerto Rico, recounts in Spanish his early days as a reggaeton star. And in Poster’s The Music of West Anderson, the longtime Wes Anderson collaborator talks about musical moments from films like Rushmore and Moonrise Kingdom.
Here are a few others you’ll see in Pandora’s browse and search screens, starting today:
- Lauren Alaina is Doin’ Just Fine: The country-pop songstress takes listeners from her breakout on American Idol to the release of her new album, Ladies in the 90s, a tribute to Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Shania Twain, and the musical heroes of her childhood.
- Perry Farrell’s Ocean-Sized Tales: Jane’s Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza cofounder Perry Farrell has spent his career on the edge of popular culture. Now, in advance of his new project, Kind Heaven Orchestra, the alt-rock luminary takes listeners on a wild ride through his musical catalog.
- Brooklyn Soul with Tommy Brenneck: Songwriter, producer, and guitarist Tommy “TNT” Brenneck is the backbone of the music scene that featured the likes of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley and served up backing tracks for rappers like Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar.
- Love Songs That Aren’t Really Love Songs: When is a love song not a love song? Quite often, as it turns out. If you’re putting together a romantic playlist for that certain special someone, you might want to listen closely to the lyrics in songs like “Stay with Me” and “Every Breath You Take” with us before you hit play.
Pandora Stories aren’t strictly narrative in nature. Artists can add as many voice tracks from guests or curators as they like, and create mixtapes — either on a regular schedule or anchored around events — by selecting songs from Pandora’s catalog.
It all falls under Pandora AMP, the company’s suite of advertising products and programs. Artists and their marketing managers can target Stories to listeners’ musical preferences and get performance analytics and editing capabilities via AMP’s campaign dashboard.
Pandora is making the case that its sizeable audience — more than 71 million monthly active users (and about 36 million paying subscribers) stream close to 24 hours of audio a month from 13 billion stations — offers a one-of-a-kind value proposition to those looking to build a following. Much like the Podcast Genome Project, a podcast recommendation engine akin to Pandora’s Music Genome Project for song suggestions, it’s another attempt to stand out among cutthroat competitors like Spotify and Apple Music.
Stories aren’t the only adtech move Pandora has made recently. This past summer, it acquired Adswizz, an audio-focused company developing programmatic “self-serve” ad-buying technology, for $145 million. With this and features like Stories, Pandora’s looking to make a dent in a digital audio advertising market that the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) pegged at $1.6 billion in 2017.
These recent moves come after Sirius XM announced it would acquire Pandora for $3.5 billion in stock in September 2018, a year after the former’s $480 million investment for a 15 percent stake. At the time, both companies said there would be “no immediate change in listener offerings,” and that’s so far been the case — although Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips told VentureBeat in a phone interview that SiriusXM offerings could be prioritized when the deal closes.