With Ticketfly buy, Pandora aims to be your concert concierge

The CEOs of Pandora and Ticketfly believe their merger could mark a turning point for artists in the Internet age. They say what's good for the music makers is great for you too.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
3 min read

Singer Rita Ora performs at Pandora's 2014 "Summer Party" in Los Angeles. Mike Danenberg/Press Line Photos/Corbis

Music fans, Pandora and Ticketfly have a love song dedicated to you.

Wednesday, streaming radio provider Pandora said it would buy online ticketing company Ticketfly for $450 million in cash and stock. The CEOs of both heralded it as transformational because it marks the first time that a company delivering personalized music on a large scale can also connect artists with fans when they roll into their hometown.

"We will talk to you personally, we will message with you personally, and we will take your personal interests into account," said Brian McAndrews, CEO of Oakland, California-based Pandora. "We are going to make sure you know when [your favorite artists] are here and make sure you have a seamless way to go see them."

The Internet is fundamentally changing the music industry, with consumers listening to streamed songs rather than buying albums and connecting with artists through social media. That makes live performances more important to how music creators make a living. Pandora hopes to tap into that trend by combining its decade of listener data with Ticketfly's live-event know-how to better help you find the concerts you care about.

That means if you create and listen to a station based on a specific artist, or if you keep tapping "thumbs up" on a particular band, Pandora can target you with messages about live events nearby. Fans of artists that play in smaller and mid-sized arenas -- Ticketfly's sweet spot -- will find it easier to learn about live events and make purchasing tickets more seamless, he said.

"Things we can do that are good for artists are almost always good for listeners too," McAndrews said.

Live music ticket sales represented a $7 billion business last year in the US, according to projections by auditor PwC. That compares with just $3.7 billion in digital music sales, both downloads and streaming royalties. Even including physical sales like CDs, the recorded music market was still a billion dollars shy of tickets.

A tool that helps connect fan with musician to increase ticket sales has been "the holy grail of new artist development forever," said Tom Silverman, the founder of hip-hop label Tommy Boy Records and organizer of the New Music Seminar yearly conference to discuss shifts in the recording industry.

It's too early to say if Pandora's combination with Ticketfly would achieve that goal. "If Pandora can help an artist that normally might have sold 150 tickets to move 250 tickets, they should get the music industry's highest achievement prize," he said.

Pandora has already experimented with targeted messages to fans. It has played audio messages from artists only for people who are identified as fans.

Ticketfly CEO Andrew Dreskin, whose San Francisco-based company was founded in 2008 and sold 16 million tickets last year, said the results of Pandora's targeted audio messages interested him. "Fans are clamoring to get closer to their favorite acts, and the acts are clamoring to get closer to their fans" he said.

That's a valuable benefit for listeners, too. Half of the people that discover a new artist or band through streaming say they end up buying tickets to their shows, according to a survey by researcher MusicWatch in July. The survey was commissioned by Eventbrite, a live-events tickets company.

"The deal provides a way for Pandora to appeal to its most valuable listeners, as streamers who buy tickets spend more time listening," said Russ Crupnick, managing partner of MusicWatch.