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Five Questions: Pandora's Lars Murray

March 7, 2017

Before joining Pandora in July 2014, Lars Murray served as Vice President of Digital Media at Columbia Records, where he spearheaded massively successful digital marketing campaigns for the likes of Pharrell Williams and for Daft Punk, surrounding the release of the duo’s Number One, multiple Grammy-winning album Random Access Memories. Further artists who have benefited from Murray’s industry expertise include Gorillaz, Jack White, the Avett Brothers, Pearl Jam, Korn, and many others.

Now, as the senior vice president of Pandora’s Music Industry Group, Murray is helping to develop new marketing tools and analytics to help artists improve their marketing strategies. For example, Pandora is collaborating with Next Big Sound, a service that has been described as “Moneyball for Music”; it analyzes metrics such as social media traffic, streaming statistics, and listener demographics to evaluate artists’ influence and popularity. Here, Murray answers our questions about using Next Big Sound, and about Pandora’s next big thing, Pandora Premium.

What are the main marketing tools that Pandora has made available to artists?

To date, since we have been primarily radiobased, we have focused on two particular strengths of the platform—the station add and the use of audio messaging—as the pillars of promotion for artists on Pandora.

How does the typical behavior of Pandora listeners, vs. that of listeners on other streaming services, shape those tools?

When a listener adds a station for a particular artist and artists’s track, that is a powerful statement of interest from the fan in the artist. It’s akin to friending the artist on Facebook or following them on Twitter or Instagram. We have made this audience addressable for all of our artists, free of charge.

With artist audio messages, we allow the artist to address this audience directly with information like new release info or tour dates, right in the station itself and when their music is heard on other stations, which results in click-through rates that are two-to ten-times what the other platforms deliver. When you factor in our scale—roughly 80 million listeners monthly—and the fact that people spend more than 22 hours per month on the platform, it makes us pretty much the most powerful promotional tool an artist can access.

Please explain a little about the applications for the analytics offered through Next Big Sound.

Having used Next Big Sound from its inception when I was at Columbia Records, I used it in all kinds of ways: for advertising, coordinating media opportunities with revenue opportunities, measuring them, and optimizing targeting and scheduling.

Can you describe the best practices for translating that data to new revenue streams for artists?

There’s not enough space here for that! But I think geographic data is the easiest to translate into action—finding out where your best markets are and concentrating your resources accordingly.

How will we see Artist Marketing Platform tools evolve with the launch of Pandora Premium?

A lot of those answers lie in the future, but the key differentiator for Premium vs. our standard service will be the ability for artists to directly target specific music on the Premium tier and to use the radio tier to move people up the value curve into on-demand streaming. Premium will provide new and higher-value experiences for the listener, and we want to help artists drive more revenue this way.

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