Pandora breaks free on the iPhone: Is the music industry listening?

The music industry has much to learn from Pandora, an exceptional music discovery service.

Tech Culture

I've been using Pandora, the excellent music discovery service, for over three years now, discovering Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, and other bands in the process. I was therefore dismayed to discover that Internet radio royalty fees threatened to bury Pandora earlier this year.

Fortunately, you can't keep a great service down: Pandora has notched two million users on the iPhone, becoming Apple's most popular iPhone application. As Jack Schofield of The Guardian suggests, this iPhone popularity should ensure Pandora's enduring presence in my life, and hopefully yours.

What still rankles me, however, is that Pandora should be in jeopardy at all. Why would the music industry lobby to raise Internet royalties on its music, when services like Pandora,, etc. contribute to enriching the music experience, helping would-be buyers find more music worth buying?

I wrote recently on this topic, suggesting that music discovery is the future of the music business. I was writing about Apple's new iTunes Genius service, but Pandora is actually a better service, as it's more likely to turn me onto hitherto unknown music. This is something for the industry to embrace, not fight. Warner, for example, is actually learning that digital music can be a Very Good Thing: as it has embraced the Web, it has seen sales increase, while its competitors have flailed to double-digit declines.

I'm glad to see Pandora thriving on the iPhone because users love the service. I'd love to see it doing even better with the music industry loving it, too. It should show its love by lobbying for lower royalties on Web music services like Pandora. In turn, I firmly believe consumers will respond with cash for the industry.

Fair trade?

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