Posted by Dave on November 10th, 2015
OK, before I get email from my friends at Pandora, let me just say I like and respect Pandora. They’ve done a great job of becoming a household name for millions of users and they’ve grown into being by far the largest consumer streaming music platform in the U.S.
Those of us who use Pandora personally know how fun and useful it is for discovering new, or old, music; taking a trip down memory lane; or seeing what other songs will come up when we plug in, say, Ry Cooder or Miley Cyrus as a seed artist. It’s always interesting.
Because of Pandora’s huge popularity in the consumer market, lots of businesses have turned to Pandora for their in-store music instead of local FM radio, SiriusXM satellite radio or an iPod. But as more and more restaurants, coffee shops, hair salons, hotels and retail stores have started using Pandora for their music, they’ve also found that Pandora has some serious shortcomings when it comes to its use as a business music service.
The “Pandora for Business” licensed music service uses the same music selection algorithm as does your free, consumer Pandora account. So what’s wrong with that? The problem is that the Pandora algorithm is designed as a personal, music discovery platform, not as a business music service. The same software that can spit out a tasty mix of tunes for a three hour party at your house is not so good at supplying a consistent sound in your business 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Why? It wasn’t designed to do that.
What are some of areas where Pandora comes up short? We signed up for a Pandora for business account and did a head to head match with Custom Channels’ ReMix service.
ROUND 1: Pandora Is Designed for Individuals, Not Businesses
Pandora: Designed and marketed as a personal music discovery platform. This TV ad for Pandora sums up their target audience (young) and goal of serving up “your song.”
ReMix: Designed by Custom Channels specifically to meet the unique needs to businesses that need great, licensed music on a consistent basis to reflect their brand, enhance their customers’ experience and employees’ work environment.
ROUND 2: Are You Getting Legal, Licensed Music?
Pandora: The only legal way to play Pandora in your business is to sign up for the Pandora for Business service offered by Muzak parent company Mood Media. A business will certainly want to avoid the free Pandora service. In addition to being illegal to play in your business because of music licensing, it comes with distracting ads that you don’t want playing in your business. Even the paid Pandora One subscription isn’t legal for business. By the way, using other streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music or Google Play can also put you a risk for copyright infringement claims. It’s not worth the risk.
ReMix: Since ReMix is built specifically for businesses, you have no worries that your business isn’t compliant with the copyright laws. We include ASCAP, BMI and SESAC licenses in the U.S. (and SOCAN in Canada) with every subscription. These blanket licenses give us broad access to the same library of music that Pandora and other streaming providers have, so your music choices are not compromised in order to be legal.
ROUND 3: Repetition
Pandora: Claims to have millions of songs in their library, and we don’t doubt that. However, the number of songs the Pandora algorithm selects to match your seed artist(s) on your particular station can be relatively small. Regular Pandora for Business users notice that their channels become stale and repetitive in fairly short order, especially when listening for hours and hours, day after day.
ReMix: We designed ReMix to minimize repetition. ReMix lets you build playlists based on styles and genres, not narrow artists. So when you add a new music style to your ReMix playlist, you’re adding hundreds of songs per style. It’s not unusual to have a ReMix channel consisting of thousands of songs. That means you can listen for days or weeks without the sense that your channel is falling into a predictable pattern.
ROUND 4: Live and Deep Songs
Pandora: Pandora likes to dish up live recordings, alternate versions and deep album cuts. That deep dive may be appropriate for a personal music discovery app and might sound good in your living room. Watch out! Live cuts and deep tracks can sound out-of-place in a business/retail environment.
ReMix: We’re very selective about things like live tracks and alternate versions. Every song we add to ReMix has to pass the test of “will this sound good in a business”? You won’t hear awkward silence, crazy applause, artist commentary, or versions that just aren’t as good as the original.
ROUND 5: Offensive Lyrics
Pandora: You’ll want to turn off the “Allow Explicit Lyrics” switch on your Pandora For Business service. Otherwise, you and your customers might get a rude surprise. Of course F-bombs aren’t the only thing you want to avoid in your business. Controversial or just plain downer lyrics that may not be considered “explicit” can still show up in your Pandora playlist.
ReMix: We screen for songs that have no place being played in public spaces. We either leave them out or provide more suitable edits. Even then, if you find a song in ReMix that you’d rather not hear again, we give you an easy way to find and ban that song from playing again on your channel.
ROUND 6: Down Tempo Songs
Pandora: Pandora doesn’t appear to screen for tempo. Of course, the tempo of music you get will depend on the artist(s) you choose. But we found it is often possible for slow/down tempo songs to play unexpectedly or clumped in groups on Pandora.
ReMix: Unless you run a spa, slow, down tempo songs can be a mood killer in a business setting. Custom Channels’ ReMix library is curated to avoid slow, plodding or depressing songs.
ROUND 7: Steering to Less Expensive Songs
Pandora: They’ve made no secret of their practice of steering listener playlists towards songs and artists that cost them less in licensing fees because of special licensing arrangements they have with their record labels. While there’s nothing illegal about this, it can result in playlists that are more about what’s best for Pandora than what’s best for the sound in your business.
ReMix: We don’t skew or steer playlists to save money. Ever.
ROUND 8: What Was That Song?
Pandora: You can see short list recently played songs from a particular day or listening session. If you want to see what song that was, you have to move fast. Once you logout or change channels, POOF, your playlist history is gone.
ReMix: Our unique Now Playing dashboard lets you look back at what was played and the time and date it was played. You can search back back days and days. You even get to play a clip of each song in your history and you can ban songs from your playlist(s) anytime right from your dashboard.
ROUND 9: Scheduling Multiple Playlists
Pandora: You can create multiple channels based on different seed artists. Supposedly, with Pandora for Business you can schedule these channels to play at certain times. But the process is clunky. We couldn’t figure out how to make that work on our Pandora for Business account and believe me, we tried!
ReMix: We have a simple, easy-to-use way to schedule additional playlists at different times, all while keeping your primary playlist going the rest of the time. ReMix uses a familiar calendar scheduling interface that’s easy and reliable.
ROUND 10: Minimal Control
Pandora: You can “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” a song. But it’s pretty vague as to what your thumb action actually does to your mix. Lots of Pandora listeners note that they’ll thumbs down a song only to have it crop back up on their playlist later.
ReMix: If you ban a song, we get it – you don’t want to hear it and we’ll remove it from your playlist. But we take it one step further. You can add specific songs and artists to your playlist without changing your overall music style preferences. That isn’t possible with Pandora for Business.
ROUND 11: Song to Song Volume Fluctuations
Pandora: The song-to-song volume consistency on our Pandora channel was so-so. It was better than playing songs from an iPod, but we still found ourselves noticing that certain songs were either too loud or too soft. It can be a challenge to get the volume just right.
ReMix: We know keeping the volume consistent from track to track is extremely important in the business environment. Wild fluctuations in volume can be very distracting and spoil the atmosphere you’re trying to create. We run every song through sophisticated audio normalization software to give each one a full, rich sound that’s designed specifically to sound great in noisy retail and restaurant conditions. Our volume is consistent.
KNOCK OUT! Final Round Decision
We still love Pandora…as long as it’s used as intended for personal listening at home, on the run or in the car. When it comes to what’s playing in your business, it’s best to go with a licensed music service like ReMix from Custom Channels – one that gives you more control over your music and is specifically curated for business use.