As the touring industry grapples with how to tap into a massive and growing streaming audience, Pandora has made significant inroads in live engagement this year through presale programs for the Rolling Stones and Odesza, two bands on opposite ends of the career spectrum.
Pandora’s efforts on the live front are led by Lars Murray, a former Columbia exec now senior vp of Pandora’s Music Makers group. For Murray, the appeal of Pandora was figuring out how to leverage its massive scale to benefit artists and broaden the scope of Pandora’s value. “I came here with a mission to unlock that value for the artist by hook or crook, whether it benefits the label, live, merch, whatever, [which] takes the conversation, frankly, beyond what it had been before, which is just about royalty rates,” Murray says. “We decided that live music was certainly one of the places we could add value fastest and most definitively.”
On the Stones’ Zip Code summer stadium tour of North America, the presale came about through an existing advertising relationship between Pandora and promoter Concerts West (the touring division of AEG Live). “We believed that if we could get some access to the band and an exclusive ticket window, we could really move the needle for them,” Murray says, adding that AEG came through with both. “We did a couple of great interviews with Mick [Jagger], Ronnie [Wood] and Keith [Richards], and we turned that into a station which promoted the presale.”
Pandora asked for the first presale (which went to AmEx in a separate sponsorship deal), and ended up with the third. “At first we weren’t all that happy about having to go behind another partner, but in the end it worked out really well for us, because we sold three times as many tickets as they did on the third day,” Murray says. “It proved it wasn’t just about having that exclusive access, it was actually about addressing the Stones’ audience in a way nobody else could.”
Selling Stones tickets is one thing, but Odesza — Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight — represented an opportunity to gauge Pandora’s ability to move the needle with a developing band. While the Stones deal originated in Pandora’s sales department, the Odesza partnership sprung from the company’s Artist Marketing Platform (AMP), which places a wealth of data and marketing tools in the hands of artists, managers and partner labels by tapping into Pandora’s massive audience. Randy Reed, who co-manages Odesza at Red Light Management, says the AMP program allows management to see who is listening to Odesza, how often, and where. “[Odesza is] getting over a million plays a day on Pandora now, so obviously, it’s still very much a discovery platform to bring new fans into the fold,” he says. Conversations with Pandora earlier this year developed into promotional presale agreement on Odesza’s fall tour, their biggest to date, which begins Halloween weekend in New Orleans. “It’s undeniable for me as a manager that, given they have such detailed and amazing streaming and behavioral data for Pandora listeners, that they can find some very easy ways to directly reach those fans while they’re listening to Odesza, and that’s exactly what they did for us,” Murray says.
The presale campaign utilized audio ads featuring the band, banner ads on the site, posts on Pandora blogs, and a dedicated page, all targeting Odesza fans on Pandora. The strategy was not so different from a traditional radio marketing campaign, except, rather than that “carpet bomb” approach, Pandora offered a “drone strike” targeting Odesza fans. Pandora quickly sold all of its 25,000 allotment of tickets, and, unlike a bank card presale that markets to all cardholders (and is a scalper magnet), only Odesza fans were targeted. “We’re not afraid to sell a lot of tickets during our presale before we get to the public onsale when we know we’re really reaching Odesza fans,” Reed says. “You have to be in the Pandora ecosystem already, listening to Odesza, or you’re not even going to hear about this presale.”
While Odesza is active on social media, Pandora fills in the gaps as a ticket selling tool, Reed believes. “I’ve realized as a manager that you have lots of fans that will buy tickets to your shows, but they’re not floating into your Facebook all the time, they don’t follow your twitter feed, they don’t get on your website,” he says. “With Pandora, we’re able to reach out to people that are not engaging necessarily in our social media, but are listening and consuming Odesza music, and give them a heads up well before the rest of the general public. I couldn’t be more pleased with the kind of fans that [Pandora] is able to help us reach, because they’re real Odesza fans.”
So what’s next for Pandora’s foray into the live world? “We have to scale this up so we can do more of it,” says Murray, adding that Pandora will expand into different genres and types of artists. “These are early days for us, but it’s really great to knock it out of the park on our first two swings.”