Solo pianist Michele McLaughlin

Michele McLaughlin makes her living from Pandora plays, and gets a nice Christmas bonus!

You may remember Michele McLaughlin from my interview with her in 2017. She’s a pianist and composer who records her own music, distributes those releases through CD Baby, owns both the master and publishing rights, and earns the bulk of her living from Pandora plays.

Pandora’s Glenn Peoples profiled Michele on Medium, giving some insight into the numbers, her approach to releasing music on Pandora, and more.

In it he says:

Independent artists can reach weekly spins of two million to six million spins in late December. At the standard royalty rate an independent artist, one who owns their masters and self-releases the music, is halfway to buying a nice car with just a couple of weeks of December royalties. This year’s Christmas bump sent Michele’s total spin count — both holiday and non-holiday music — to 11 million in the week ended Christmas day. “Royalties from Pandora are my main source of income [from royalties],” said Michele, whose home page prominently displays a link to her Pandora page. Sales of CDs and digital downloads are her second and third-best sources of revenue from her recorded music.


In some cases, an independent artist in the vein of McLachlan has nearly as many, or in some cases more, spins than well-known names. Her combined catalog of regular and holiday music put her on the cusp of Pandora’s top 100 artists last week.

That’s an impressive achievement for an independent artist. As the graph below illustrates, Michele does well on Pandora year-round, but there’s a little Christmas bonus: a spike in streaming activity during the holidays, thanks to her three Christmas music releases.

Pandora streams can pay the bills

No secret, many artists see a listening bump between Halloween and Christmas, and it’s not just for holiday music.

Something to keep in mind this year: as an independent musician, it’s a good idea to have both holiday and (what’s the word?) regular music available in time for the fall listening frenzy.

Which means you should be creating any seasonal music well before the Season. Finish up those jolly tunes by July y’all! And then distribute them worldwide through CD Baby.

Congrats to Michele for both the success and Pandora taking notice.

Check out her music HERE.