Pandora Turns Up the Ads

August 10, 2010 |  by

Has anyone else noticed a big increase in audio ads on Pandora?

For those who aren’t familiar, Pandora is the service that revolutionized music listening by offering no commercial, listener-personalized music – for free. Finally, it felt: “This is how music was meant to be heard.” No interruptions – and only music that spoke to me.

At first Pandora was something totally different (radio was commercial and not personal, iTunes and music libraries are repetitive, XM Satellite has only impersonal stations). Pandora created a special place where you could dive into music you loved – let go, be inspired – without being accosted by commercials, noise, etc. It was your place, it wasn’t Pandora’s anymore (although they provided it). So when I’m in this place – and suddenly I hear commercials for a Lexus, Infiniti or a movie I have no interest in – it’s jarring. I’m not the only one feeling this way. On Pandora’s own blog, listeners’ reaction to the Pandora ads is visceral:

“My usual reaction is immediate defensive anger.”

“I feel betrayed…I would quite purposefully never purchase any item that so rudely interrupted and intruded on my experience.”

“I HATE the audio ads. I will NOT tolerate ANY sort of ads during listening to music.”

“I for one will boycott any company that uses their ads on Pandora.”

“Please don’t do this. I want non-stop music. Must corporations seep through every pore of our lives??”

“Why don’t people that run these sites get it that people come to them BECAUSE WE ARE SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING COMMERCIALS.”

Whoa…these people aren’t kidding. What’s going on here?

The person writing that ads “intruded on my experience” summed it up. We want real experiences, we want to deepen, to feel ourselves, to share. Sure, it’s easy to say, “these people don’t understand the economics, the realities of the market.” But that’s not the real point. What these people (and myself) are expressing is much more than just a question of ads/revenue models. It’s an aspiration for a way of life – of creating places of meaning and personal experience – and a desperate reaction to having had to compromise that vision over and over again.

Actually Pandora should be congratulated. They anticipated our needs perfectly – they gave us a pure experience of music – they just couldn’t sustain it financially. What’s important is that they gave us a glimpse of what we wanted. They brought us a step closer.

So how do we support “experience providers” like Pandora?  Ads won’t work – they kill the experience. Expecting things to be free isn’t realistic. Either we create new models, or we do it the old fashioned way – we pay. For $3/month (10 cents/day), Pandora gives you ad-free music.

I’m willing to pay (trade) that much for experience.

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