Submitting music to Pandora Radio is easy, easy, easy.
Over the past decade, Pandora has become one of the go-to destinations for music discovery. The popular radio service allows over 81 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 songs 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 Radio 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 Radio as an independent artist?
First, I should clarify a few things.
1. Pandora now provides music in three ways:
- Pandora Radio — a non-interactive streaming radio experience (meaning you can’t pick exactly what you want to hear, but you can shape the listening experience according to genre, similar artists, your tastes, etc.)
- Pandora Premium — a subscription-based interactive (on-demand) streaming service, similar to Spotify or Apple Music
- Pandora Plus — an enhanced version of the radio service which allows for some limited on-demand streaming activity
2. The three different Pandora services generate different kinds of royalties for artists.
Not only do each of these services generate different royalties, but those royalties are paid to you differently depending on how your music was added to Pandora’s catalog.
For a full breakdown of Pandora’s royalty flow, check out our infographic “How Pandora Royalties Really Work.”
3. You cannot submit your music on your own to Pandora Premium and Plus, only to Pandora Radio.
In order to have your music included in the interactive streaming service Pandora Premium, or to be eligible for the interactive features of Pandora Plus, you must use a licensed distributor (such as CD Baby) to deliver you music to Pandora. Conversely, just because your music is distributed to Pandora Premium does NOT mean it will automatically be available in Pandora Radio, which is why we recommend you still submit your music to Pandora Radio manually.
Submitting music to Pandora Radio
Pandora’s curation team is constantly on the lookout for independent, self-released music by monitoring data-driven charts, blogs, label release schedules, a variety of editorial properties, and the listening activity of Pandora users. Pandora also has an open submission system online that allows artists to submit their albums and singles for consideration. Every submission is listened to and considered carefully by a musicologist that is trained to approve submissions for Pandora.
This online submission process is a valid way for you to get your music considered for inclusion in the Pandora Radio service the, even if you’re using a distributor such as CD Baby to get your music delivered to Pandora Premium.
For artists who are NOT using a distributor:
- The online submission is the best way to get your music in front of Pandora.
- If accepted, your music will only be available in Pandora’s Radio service and all royalties flow through SoundExchange.
For artists who ARE using a distributor:
- Using the online submission form will possibly increase the visibility of your music to Pandora curators, improving its chances of being added to their Radio service.
- If accepted, your music will be available in all Pandora services.
- The artist’s share of royalties generated via Pandora’s Radio service will be paid through SoundExchange; all other royalties (including the label share of Radio service plays, plus all interactive streaming) will be paid to you through your distributor.
For artists whose music was added to Pandora’s Radio service via the online submission form and THEN delivered to Pandora Premium/Plus by a distributor:
- The first situation above is true until the time of delivery, and then the second situation takes over.
Submiting your music to Pandora, step by step
1. Make sure you control the legal rights to your work.
2. Make your music available on iTunes US, 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.
5. Provide Pandora with details about your submission, including your band name, release information (single, EP, or album), UPC, link to artist bio, and valid links to a song on iTunes (US), Amazon, CD Baby, or Bandcamp.
6. Verify your submission.
Yep. Now you’ll have to wait to hear if your album is approved. In the past I’ve had to wait a number of weeks to hear back, but just this morning (in November of 2017) I submitted a new single and it was already approved the same day. If your music is accepted, Pandora will purchase the album from Amazon (digital), iTunes (US), or Bandcamp. If you list the source of your submission as CD Baby and the submission is approved, it is automatically added to the Pandora library. Keep in mind that not every submission is approved, but every submission is listened to and considered in the same way, in the order it is received, by a human being.
How does The Music Genome Project work?
Here’s a little bit about the team of people who’ll be analyzing your music, 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.
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.
Also, if you create original music, be sure to register for CD Baby Pro Publishing so you can collect all the mechanical and performance royalties your music is generating worldwide!
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.