Internet radio service Pandora looks to monetise NZ operation, hunts for local boss

Jane Huxley

KeallHauled

Chris Keall

Internet radio service Pandora is looking to monitise its local operation, says Australia-NZ managing director Jane Huxley.

Pandora launched in NZ in December* last year.

Based on user growth, Ms Huxley says the company should be in a position to commercialise the service by the end of this year.

There are two options for listening to Pandora channels: free, if you're willing to listen to ads (of which there are none to avoid at present), or pay-per-month for an ad-free version with higher quality audio (in the US, the premium version costs $US3.99  a month or $US36 a year. There's also a $US1 charge to listen to music for the rest of the month if you exceed a 40 hours of listening cap).

Ms Huxley won't reveal local numbers, but says in the US Pandora now has 30 million users (the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange [NYSE:P] and has a market cap of $US2.87 billion. It recently reported fiscal 2013 revenue that increased 56% to $US427.1 million; its loss widened from $US20 million ot $US38 million).

Click to zoom.

The Australian is also on the hunt for an NZ country manager for Pandora. [UPDATE: MediaWorks’ general manager of integration Melanie Reece won the role.] Currently the Australasian team consists of Ms Huxley and two others across the Tasman.

It's natural to imagine refugees from the shrinking traditional music industry applying, but Ms Huxley comes from a tech, telco and media background, having worked variously for Microsoft, Vodafone and Fairfax, where she was head of the publisher's Digital unit. She says her background in dealing with data is useful, given Pandora makes most of its money from selling ads (about 90% of users ar on free, ad-funded plans) and it's a data-driven sell. The company has detailed (anonymous) information about what its members listen to, what their friends listen to and, if they listen on a mobile, where they are. Terrestrial radio stations can't offer that sort of targeting, 

No doubt a traditional radio station advocate would respond that most people do a lot of radio listening in their car, and no-one has streaming internet in their vehicle. But Pandora has two options here: one, you can stream through your mobile phone (Pandora has Android and iPhone apps). And secondly it has Holden signed on as the first car company in Australasia to offer full compatibility with Pandora via its new Holden MyLink touchscreen system, available with the new Barina CDX).

I mention to Huxley that whenever I write about Pandora (or Spotify or Rdio), comments always appear asking how much data a streaming music service uses. 

She has the numbers at her finger-tips, addiing "There's more conversation around mobile data caps here than there is in Australia," (yup, because they're meaner).

The average spolitfy user listens to 20 hours music a month. That means they download a total of about 140 megabytes (0.14 gigabytes) a month - in the context of the average mobile data cap being 500 megabytes (half a gigabyte). The commercial version of Pandora offers higher resolution audio that can take four times the bandwidth - but apparently most people only use that when they're at home or the office or otherwise on wi-fi. When you're on a mobile phone you can chop down to lower resolution audio. The average Pandora user plits their time 50/50 between mobile and wi-fi.

Internet radio service Pandora is again accessible to New Zealanders - and this time with NZ-specific channels.

Another popular music streaming service, Spotify, also launched in NZ last year.

The key difference between the two is that Spotify lets you choose tracks ondemand, and build playlsits (or choose from many pre-canned lists).

Pandora, by contrast, bills itself as the service for people without the time or inclination to choose tracks or build playlists.

You enter the name of an artist, or genre, then Pandora starts to build you a personalised channel. It claims to have smarts that learn your taste - as long as you're an active listener who constantly rates tracks.

If that's too much effort, can also chose from a range of pre-existing NZ channels (listed below).

Spotify is free with ads, $7.99/month to lose the ads and get better audio; or $12.99/month to also gain the ability to save songs to multiple devices (there's alsa a one-click option to buy a song from Amazon for digital delivery for US users, and CD-only for NZ members).

Huxley says the two services are complementary and many people use both - Spotify for creating playlists, and Pandora for more passive listening, which the company claims makes up around 80% of people's listening time.

Around 70% of the artists on Pandora are on indpendent labels. Once appointed, part of the NZ country manager's job will be to liaise with local record companies, plus the likes of NZ on Air and rights agencies (Pandora hands on a percentage of its ad revenue to artists). But being a one person band, they'll also have to field listeners' emails, and stuff T-shirts into envelopes. The better news: once Pandora NZ goes commercial later this year, Huxley sees multiple hires.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

PANDORA'S NZ-SPECIFIC CHANNELS

NZ Today’s Hits
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG858
The hottest tracks from the charts featuring a mix of new Pop, Rock and Hip Hop from New Zealand, Australia and the U.S., including Aaradhna, Kimbra, Avalanche City, Swiss, Annah Mac, Six60

NZ Today’s Pop and Hip Hop
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG857
The hottest tracks from the charts featuring a mix of new Hip Hop and Pop from New Zealand, Australia and the U.S., including Swiss, Rihanna, Six60, Ladi6, David Dallas

NZ Today’s Country
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG859
The hottest tracks from the charts featuring a mix of new Country from New Zealand and the U.S., including Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Keith Urban, The McClymonts, Beccy Cole, McAlsiter Kemp

NZ Electronic and Dance
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG870
You’re in the club with cutting-edge Dance music and the most innovative Electronic DJs, featuring Architecture in Helsinki, Empire of the Sun, Art vs Science, Justice Crew, Cut Copy

NZ Today’s Hip Hop and R&B
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG856
The hottest tracks that are on today’s charts featuring a mix of new Hip Hop and R&B, including Aloe Blacc, Swiss, Nesian Mystik, Ladi6, Che Fu, Scribe

NZ Indie Rock
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG862
You’ll hear the latest NZ indie bands that are breaking out, including music from Willy Moon, The Veils, The Phoenix Foundation, The Bats, Cut off Your Hands

NZ Classic Indie Rock
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG864
We’ll take you back to the 80s and 90s for music from the early Indie from bands on the Propeller and Flying Nun labels, including Tall Dwarfs, The Clean, DD Smash, The D4, The Dead C

NZ Alternative Rock
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG863
You’ll hear some of the most influential Kiwi Alternative Rock bands from the 90s and 2000s, including The Datsuns, Shihad, Evermore, Steriogram, Die! Die! Die!

NZ Reggae, Roots, Dub
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG861
This station features contemporary indigenous artists specializing in Reggae and Roots music, including Fat Freddy’s Drop, Katchafire, The Black Seeds, Che Fu, Sola Rosa

NZ Country
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG865
We’ll play many award-winning Country artists from the past decades featuring Keith Urban, Anne Kilpatrick, Adam Harvey, John Williamson, Slim Dusty

NZ Singer Songwriters
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG860
We’ll play a mix of New Zealand’s most popular and up-and-coming singer-songwriters, including Bic Runga, Liam Finn, Gin Wigmore, Lawrence Arabia, Dave Dobbyn

NZ 60s and 70s Summer Hits
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG869
The biggest classic hits of the 60s and 70s based on the Kent Music Report and the RIANZ Charts, featuring The Seekers, The Easybeats, Olivia Newton-John, Helen Reddy, The Bee Gees, Andy Gibb

NZ 80s Summer Hits
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG868
The biggest hits of the 80s based on the Kent Music Report and the RIANZ Charts, featuring INXS, Men at Work, The Little River Band, Split Enz, Rick Springfield, Crowded House

NZ 90s Summer Hits
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG867
The biggest hits of the 90s based on the Kent Music Report and the RIANZ Charts, featuring John Farnham, Human Nature, Frente!, Kyle Minogue, Savage Garden, Silverchair

NZ 2000s Summer Hits
http://www.pandora.com/?sc=miG866
The biggest hits of the 2000s based on the Kent Music Report and the RIANZ Charts, featuring Delta Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, Kylie Minogue, The Veronicas, The Presets

* Technically a relaunch as some New Zealanders used Pandora until it was geo-blocked for copyright reasons in 2007. The geo-block was quietly lifted in July last year.

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2 Comments & Questions

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Hmm, I started paying in August or so last year when they relaunched to old subscribers!

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New Zealanders can upgrade to the paid version for higher resolution audio. So far, there are no ads to avoid by paying for access.

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