Pandora Plots Tool To Help Bands Plan Better Tours

Posted September 24

There’s nothing worse than playing a show to smattering of (obligated) friends, the sound guy and a bored-looking bartender — right bands? Well, instances of that nature can be hard to avoid when planning a tour in unfamiliar locales (and even harder still if you suck, but I digress). Which is why Pandora is planning to unleash its glowing trove of audience info on bands in the very near future, allowing them to plan tours based on where the people who actually want to see them reside.

Pandora launched a new initiative in December of 2011 called Pandora Presents, a live concert series that determines which band to book in which city based on listener data (likes, channels created, etc). Pandora then invites fans who have shown a dedication to that band (those who created the channels, etc) to a small show — free of charge. The whole thing is filmed and posted on a dedicated, sponsored hub.

After taking in the second show in the series — Portugal. The Man in New York City — we mused that that listener info would be extremely useful to the average band if made widely available, and now, it seems, Pandora is working on doing just that.

We spoke with Pandora founder Tim Westergren before the fifth Pandora Presents event, a September 19 Theophilus London show in Chicago, and when we asked about the future of the series, Westergren mused a bit on musician reaction so far to the program. “Most musicians these days are not even aware, I think, of the potential of this stuff. We sit musicians down, we walk them through their data on Pandora. We can literally show them what songs are spinning and how much and who likes them and where — show them a heat map of the country. For some, it just blows their minds. Afterall, for a musician that is the quest: How do you connect with audiences and do it in lots of places so that you can have a sustainable career? I think a lot of them look at that and say, ‘This is exactly what we need.’”

And soon, that information will be available to musicians big and small, not just the more established bands Pandora has been booking thus far. Westergren says that the last five concerts have been, in effect, a way to product plan a more open-source information bank for touring musicians.

Westergren isn’t sure when such a product will be released. “I would like to have launched it yesterday,” he says. “This is a big priority for me, personally. We don’t ever put out ‘Coming Soon’ announcements on products, but everybody inside the company is really excited about this particular piece. We’ve already been working on it, it’s really a matter of how long it will take to finish it.”

The Pandora founder says that such a product would likely be public-facing, which means that bands would be able to tap into all of Pandora’s listener info — who likes their music, where and how fervently — and plan their tours accordingly.

“The real question is how do you turn this into a program where you’re having hundreds if not thousands of shows?” he says. “The promise of the Web is that it can scale these kinds of things. This particular format that we have now is the tip of the pyramid, if you will. You can do a lot of those shows, but how can you also be effective for a singer/songwriter in a coffee shop in Rhode Island? That’s the longterm, big, big win.”

So far, the biggest win for Pandora has been Walk The Moon’s performance in Los Angeles — both online and off. That show saw an audience of 750, and, after the show, Pandora saw around 100,000 adds of a Walk The Moon-inspired mixtape featured on that show’s page. To Westergren, those mixtape adds equal new fans for the band.

“We can communicate with someone through email based on their location so we can drive someone from the Web to a local venue,” Westergren says. “But then you have the ability to keep that going afterwards as well, because you have an ongoing conversation with someone. That, to me, is where the real magic starts to happen for these shows.”

Right now, Pandora does not livestream Pandora Presents shows on its site, opting instead to post videos after the fact, but after a successful experiment with live audio streaming during the recent Made In America Festival, Westergren says that more activity in this area could be in the cards.

Although Pandora’s future in the live music space is riddled with “maybe”s and “we don’t know”s at the moment, the potential for the expansion of such a platform — one that helps bands get gigs based on their inherent fanbases — is promising. Pandora is a massive platform (49 million monthly users) with more than a decade’s worth of data, which means it not only has the information that bands need, it also the reach.

It just remains to be seen when “coming soon” will be and what, exactly, it will yield.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Ted Van Pelt