Getting Your Music Into Pandora by Michael Zapruder

There are any number of ways to get your music on Pandora. We’re always looking for new music to play for our listeners, so we watch all kinds of blogs, radio stations, show listings, charts and things like that. And while we don’t automatically add everything we see in those places, when an artist reaches a certain level of visibility we like to try our best to make that music available on Pandora.

So that’s the first thing you need to know. If you are connecting with an audience or community in a strong way; if you’re playing good rooms and getting attention, you will have a fine chance of getting into our collection.

We know we can’t find everything, though, so for the many deserving bands that we miss for one reason or another (and for bands that are just starting out), we offer a web-based music submission process that is free and open to everyone.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Register for Pandora (the submission process is connected to listener accounts, so you can use your existing account if you have one).
  2. Go to http://submitmusic.pandora.com and follow the directions for submitting.
  3. If your CD meets the requirements for submission (you have to have a valid UPC code and the record has to be for sale in the Amazon CD store), you’ll be prompted to upload two songs along with any biographical or press information and any links you’d like us to know about.
  4. When we get to your submission, we listen and make a decision about whether your submission is right for us.  (This takes time, so be patient.)
  5. If you’re accepted, we send you an email with a customized mailing label that you’ll use to send us your record. If we pass on your record we let you know on your submission page and we encourage you to keep us posted on your future work.

Lots of people ask us about the Amazon requirements, so here’s the skinny:

We use UPC codes as identifiers to display the right artist information and album art when something plays on Pandora. We want to be able to show as much information about the artists we play as we can, and UPC codes make that possible.

Requiring albums to be available in the Amazon CD store guarantees that we will have usable metadata for every album we accept, which in turn frees us up to spend our time listening to your submissions instead of entering song titles and such. It also means that interested listeners will be able to find and buy your music by clicking the Amazon link in the Pandora tuner.

You can get your music into the Amazon CD store for free using a service called CreateSpace. They press on-demand CDs for Amazon purchases. For people who have CDs for sale already, there is a vendor program that Amazon offers that charges an annual fee as well (and in case you’re wondering, we don’t have any financial stake in the above services).

So, what are we listening for when we get to your submission?

Well, for unknown bands the fundamental question we have to answer is: will fans of this kind of music be excited to discover this on Pandora stations?

We also consider how the submission might add to our existing collection. We may have more of a need for Black Metal, a less visible genre, than for something more common like Indie Rock (that’s not to say that we close the door on any genres, but the state of our collection sometimes comes into play).

We have a few basic internal guidelines for listening to every submission.

For one thing, our reviewers never have to give a reason for accepting music, but they always have to explain their decision if they are rejecting something. This only seems fair to us.

Also, we try to keep our personal musical preferences out of the decision-making process. The fact that a reviewer may not enjoy Darkwave or East Coast Hip hop or anything else really has no place in the decision about whether our listeners would embrace that music.

We are looking for excellence. Tim, Pandora’s founder, often says: “You have to earn your way into Pandora.” We try to make good decisions about whether the music lives up to that high standard.

When it’s all said and done, though, we know that with music and art we can’t ever be 100% sure we’re making the right call. We can never completely transcend our own subjectivity. Our way around that is to keep it simple: we try as hard as we can to give your music a fair hearing. We do our best to be conscientious with your work.

If we do get it wrong (and we do sometimes), we’ll find out about it; and when we see your music being reviewed or appearing on a chart somewhere, or when you’re playing the Fox Theater here in Oakland, we’ll make sure to get it into the collection right away!

Best of luck to everyone who is considering submitting their music or has already done so, and thanks from all the reviewers here for your interest in being a part of Pandora.

Michael Zapruder is an award-winning musician who serves as Music Curator for Pandora, the Oakland-based internet radio service based on the Music Genome Project. As curator, he directs all aspects of music collection, curation, and cataloging for Pandora’s stations. Zapruder has been with Pandora nearly since the inception of the Music Genome Project and was appointed as Pandora’s music curator in 2004.

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