As on-demand music subscription services including Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal have increased in popularity, Pandora has been pushed into the background. Overlooked as a streaming service because listeners are only able to listen to music from pre-made or custom stations, Pandora is looking toward a more modern business model by adding on-demand streaming and recruiting Questlove to guide the 16-year-old company in its new direction as Strategic Advisor and the company’s first Artist Ambassador.
When Apple Music launched its Beats 1 Radio service, it recruited international tastemakers Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenuga, but it took the genuine star power of Drake and Dr. Dre to make it relevant. Now Pandora has given the The Tonight Show musical director carte blanche to pave his own path, starting with the weekly “Questlove Supreme” show. According to a statement from the company, the three hour show will premiere on September 7 at 1 p.m. Eastern and feature the Roots drummer’s music selections along with conversations and interviews with “music lovers.”
Beyond Questlove’s personal expertise, Pandora has a core technology — entitled the Music Genome Project — which is proprietary to the service and gives each song a unique fingerprint using approximately 450 “genes” representing different characteristics of music. The resulting database is used to program its online radio stations. According to a statement from Questlove, the Music Genome Project led him to join Pandora after a meeting last fall.
“When [Pandora co-founder] Tim [Westergren] introduced me to the Music Genome Project, and explained its origin and how he and his team developed it, I was blown away. Pandora is a company born of a musician’s experience, and I’m very excited to join them in their mission to create a healthy and vibrant industry for artists and fans alike.”
However, Questlove’s encyclopedic music knowledge and superior algorithm won’t be enough for the revamped Pandora to compete. It needs to reach deals with major record companies to provide users with a song library rivaling its competitors. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pandora’s current catalog sits at two million tracks — a far cry from its competitors, who boast upwards of 30 million tracks. Otherwise, the $10 per month streaming tier will be dead on arrival.