"Radio stations used to play a record all the way through. You'd anticipate that eagerly. That's exactly what we're trying to do."
That's Pandora CEO Tim Westergren on the online radio giant's newly launched Pandora Premieres, a new T-Mobile sponsored station aimed at reengaging listeners by luring them in with album previews.
Because Pandora Premieres offers a limited-time preview and users listen to a whole album beginning to end, Pandora Premieres falls outside the compulsory licensing under which Pandora typically operates. For this feature, Pandora is contracting directly with music labels (on-demand services such as Spotify and Rhapsody base most of their businesses on deals with labels).
There are no limits to the number of times you can skip or listen to particular tracks within Premieres. The only "limit" is the amount of time the station is available for listening. Typically, Pandora Premiere stations will be available for a week—or less—before an album's street date; the album will disappear once the street date hits—and new album previews will appear.
New album previews will hit the Pandora Premieres station up to a week before their U.S. debut dates, and will span a mixture of genres and include both well-known and emerging artists, Westergren says.
The new feature nudges Pandora into more of a lean-forward type of experience—where users more actively seek out specific artists or albums. It's a behavior more native to Spotify or Rdio, or even the new Google Play Music All Access and, presumably, the forthcoming music service from Beats Electronics dubbed Daisy.
Westergren says Pandora, which is scheduled to announce its earnings on Thursday, has always had its main competition in terrestrial radio—especially when it comes to local ads—rather than on-demand streaming services. Scott Borchetta's Big Machine Label Group made a deal with Clear Channel Communications last year that would pay the label's artists royalties when their recordings aired on Clear Channel stations. Pandora recently partnered with Strata and Mediaocean to launch digital tools to make it easier for advertisers who usually buy ads on terrestrial radio to shop on Pandora and compare ratings.
For launch, Pandora Premieres is featuring new albums from John Fogerty and Laura Marling.
[Image: Flickr user Ian Muttoo]