Over the past decade, Pandora Internet Radio has become one of the go-to destinations for music discovery. The popular radio service allows over 76 million active users to create customized stations based on their favorite genres and artists. Pandora’s recommendation engine (built on extensive human input) then streams a playlist that is altered by user engagement in real-time. In other words, Pandora is pretty smart at picking the playlist to start with, but the listener can give feedback (a simple thumbs up or down) and then Pandora gets even smarter!
For independent artists, getting music on Pandora can be a great way to build an audience without spending thousands on radio promotion or advertising. If you sound like Coldplay, whenever someone creates a Pandora station based on the music of Coldplay—bam!—your music could get served up, hopefully earning you a new fan or download sale (since Pandora also displays buy links).
But how do you get your music onto Pandora as an independent artist? It’s pretty easy, actually, especially since they began accepting submissions for digital-only albums a few months ago. Yep, pretty easy — except for one small detail, which we’ll discuss below. But first, here’s the simple steps for submitting music to Pandora.
How to submit your music to Pandora
1. Make sure you control the legal rights to your work.
2. Make your music available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, or Bandcamp. (Hey, if you’re a CD Baby artist, you’ve already got this covered!)
3. Log into your Pandora account. If you don’t have a Pandora account, create one HERE.
4. Go to Pandora’s Submit Your Music page. If you’re in a country that doesn’t have Pandora, just write to firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll create an account for you.
5. Provide Pandora with details about your submission, including your band name, release information (single, EP, or album), link to artist bio, and valid links to one or two songs on iTunes (US), Amazon, CD Baby, or Bandcamp.
6. Verify your submission.
Yep. Now you’ll have to wait an estimated six weeks to get an acceptance or rejection from Pandora (if it’s an acceptance, they’ll request that you send the whole album) — which brings us to that one little detail I talked about above: not everyone’s music will get accepted into Pandora’s catalog, an extensive collection of songs that is curated by a team of musicologists and powered by a taxonomy of musical data called The Music Genome Project.
How does The Music Genome Project work?
Since so much of Pandora’s curation work is hands-on, it’s no wonder there’s a significant wait time for response, especially when you consider the huge amount of submissions they receive each week.
Here’s a little bit about the team of people who’ll be considering your music, and how your music is further analyzed and cataloged if you DO get accepted. According to Pandora:
Each song in the Music Genome Project is analyzed using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst. These attributes capture not only the musical identity of a song, but also the many significant qualities that are relevant to understanding the musical preferences of listeners. The typical music analyst working on the Music Genome Project has a four-year degree in music theory, composition or performance, has passed through a selective screening process and has completed intensive training in the Music Genome’s rigorous and precise methodology. To qualify for the work, analysts must have a firm grounding in music theory, including familiarity with a wide range of styles and sounds.
What qualifies your music for inclusion in Pandora’s catalog
And what exactly is this team of music experts looking for exactly?
Well, there’s a few things to consider. Will fans of your genre be excited to discover your music on a Pandora station they’ve created? Is your genre saturated with new music? It’s probably safe to assume that the more music Pandora receives in a particular genre, the better that music has to be to get noticed and added to their catalog — though I also assume Pandora’s team of curators expects excellence from all the music they accept. As Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder, has said: “You have to earn your way into Pandora.”
Hopefully all this information is helpful to you in submitting your music to Pandora. If your music is accepted, be sure to register with SoundExchange, an organization that pays digital performance royalties to artists, labels, and performers for the usage of sound recordings online. Heck, even if Pandora doesn’t accept your music, you should still register with SoundExchange; there may be plenty of other internet radio stations that are interested in playing your music.
Have you submitted your music to Pandora? Did it get accepted or rejected? What was the process like? Let us know in the comments section below.