Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pandora Radio, It's Been a Great Relationship, but I Think We Make Better Friends


I understand Pandora's recent restriction on how much time mobile users can listen for "free" per month. A business needs revenue. Pandora isn't a charity. I get it.

I still think they made a bad decision from a market penetration standpoint. $.99 per month isn't that much to pay for 40+ more hours of music on a mobile device if you use it a lot. I do. With other options out there, like Spotify, iTunes radio stations, though, I think Pandora might end up losing listeners rather than gaining them.

I, for one, have re-discovered Spotify and found more merits to it. A year or so ago, a friend of mine argued that Spotify did a better job of relating songs to each other on a station.

I disagreed at the time. I think my disagreement came more from finding virtues in Pandora's broader swath in relating songs to each other. At that time, I had been getting back into finding new music via music broadcasters like Pandora and Spotify. I wanted to discover more music, so Pandora's broad swath made sense at the time.

I probably would have paid the $.99 this month, too, if I wasn't taking a long weekend trip to the Carribean. Last time I went out of the country, I couldn't use Pandora. Why spend even $.99 this time when I wouldn't have access for almost a week. I'm on a budget, and every dollar counts.

It hasn't help Pandora's case, when it came to me, that BBC America will broadcast the premiere Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 tonight, either. I always like listening to Doctor Who music around premiere time. I'm excited, so I want to get into it.

Listening to Doctor Who music on iTunes gets a little boring, though. I don't want to listen to the music as arranged on albums anymore. I also would love to hear something new and related. Heck, listening to Spotify, I learned that there was a score released for the Doctor Who A Christmas Carol special. It's been 2 or 3 years since it was broadcast, and I hadn't known.

The Pandora selection of Doctor Who music has always sucked. They pretty much only played songs from the David Tennant specials and from the combined Series 1 & 2 album. Not horrible selections, but not enough of actual Doctor Who music. I've gone to the station because I want to hear Doctor Who music!

So Pandora taking away my privelege of listening to them after awhile has become a win for me. I've found other avenues to listen to music in ways that benefit me. Spotify's Murray Gold station practically plays only Doctor Who music (with some Sherlock and The Avengers music thrown in). I can't object to that.

I have no problem observing that I think this decision may end up hurting Pandora more than it helps. Sure, getting a little influx of revenue will make a nice boost and looks good in the short run. It feels more like a work around patch to the problem than a solution to revenue issues, though.

If I have found other avenues to listen to music that meets my needs better at different times, I'm sure other people have, too. I don't actively look for different products and don't like being the first to adopt things. If this action of Pandora's has led a passive consumer to switch products for even just selected uses, imagine what a more active and opinionated consumer will do.

Combine that with the revenue Pandora gets from advertisers. Consumers can pay $3.99 to listen without ads. A lot of people, like me, have no problem suffering ads for free music. Now Pandora has lost an ad listener for not only the post-40 hours per month period, but for periods before that when something like Spotify better fits my needs.

So, on one hand, thank you Pandora for depriving me of your service. I've been able to find another product that can provide for my demand better at times. You've helped me see that I have got some other great options out there.

While helping me, though, you may have hurt yourself. By depriving me, you have lost the market share of my own and probably many other ears for a period of the month. And not just after the 40 "free" hours, but other times before that point.

I hope you don't regret your decision. Heck, maybe it will even help you come up with a better product. Maybe you can win me and others back 100% of the time. I'm not leaving you, but I don't have any other problems "dating" other online music programs. Thank you for showing me the other opportunities out there. You're a good friend.

Yet, you might want to work on your product and marketing strategy. The underdogs might get you in this dog-eat-dog world.

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