Your music is said to be on a different level when it reaches audiences from all over the world. But your music grows the most when you are able to actually connect with your audience. Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform helps artists achieve their maximum reach and monitor their catalog’s growth. Jamie Freedman works on the Creator Services team at Pandora and programs Classical Music and is here to talk to Bree Noble about how Pandora is an invaluable tool for developing connections between established artists and labels and their fans. Armed with a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology, Jamie has dedicated her career to supporting artists and connecting them with the fans that love them. Listen in as Jamie shares how Pandora gives your music an opportunity to be heard and discovered by audiences all over the world.
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The Ultimate Connection: Jamie Freedman On Pandora’s Artists Marketing Platform
I am so excited to be here with Jamie Freedman from Pandora. Pandora is a longstanding institution as far as streaming platforms go. How long has Pandora been around?
In some form or another, it has been around for many years.
In a way streaming services, it is a longstanding institution. I am excited to have her here to talk about their AMP platform and how you can utilize all these awesome tools that they have created for you to get the word out to your fans about things that you are doing. Also, do some cool things with your fans cause that connection that you want to have with them that you can’t do with other streaming platforms. Before we get into that, I would love to hear, Jamie, your background, a little bit of how you’ve got into working in the music industry, and then how you ended up working at Pandora.
Thanks for having me, Bree. It’s always fun to hear other people explain things that you talk about all the time, “I have to remember that one. That one is a good one.” I’m from Southern California. I was born in Southern California and live in Northern California now near San Francisco. I grew up in the industry and decided not to go that route. I have been a music lover my whole life, starting in school and decided to do music education. I went into academia. I was going to teach Music. I started off doing Music Ed. I decided I didn’t want to conduct for a living.
I ended up doing Ethnomusicology and got a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from the University of Texas in Austin. I loved it, live to breathe music all the time, and then on the side was working for nonprofit theaters like the Kennedy Center and regional theaters selling tickets because I love arts and the performing arts. The academia and I broke up and moved to the Bay Area.
In my late twenties, and because the tech world is big here, I started applying for all of the music jobs. I worked my way through during the recession. I had my own little consulting company for a while. I worked with bands, artists, other startups and landed a job at Pandora years later. I had applied for this job several years ago. The guy who got that job that I applied for, I worked with now, so it comes full circle.
I help folks use amp, which is the Artist Marketing Platform on Pandora, and then I program classical music on the side because I have that background through my academia stuff. I’m a trained singer. I sing in choirs. I have sung opera, but then I have also been in Afropop Ensembles and Klezmer bands. I like being around music and musicians in any way.
I happened to be one, that’s always fun but I like hanging out with musicians and helping folks do their thing. Whatever that means, whether it’s selling tickets or getting more spins on streaming services, I want there to be more music in the world. I want it to be accessible to whoever wants to hear it. That’s my drive that I have been trying to do forever, so here I am.
We have similar backgrounds, and we switched places because I went from Northern California to Southern California. I was classically trained as well. I have been in choirs forever. I also have that drive, like you said, to be around music and help people create more music in the world. The way to do that is to make sure that they’ve got people that are listening to their music and supporting them, so they can keep making more music. We can’t keep making it in a vacuum and draining our bank account every time we want to make music.
Why did you end up breaking up with academia? I’m curious because I have a background in classical. I was a Classical Vocal Performance major. My husband is an English Literature Professor. I have been in the world of academia and around it. I know you were on Ethnomusicology, so not in your area but the universities you worked in. Did they teach anything about the business side of music?A lot of people with master's degrees are now off doing other things because they decided to do something for themselves. Click To Tweet
At the University of Texas, when I was there, there was a Music Business program for undergrads. They did have that, and I’m sure they do too, now at Michigan. I don’t know if I ever had access to it in my program.
I didn’t, and I went in the ’90s.
I knew that it existed. Why I broke up with academia? I don’t want to say I was a bad student. After a while, I didn’t buy into it anymore. There were some incidences that I remember that I realized that my colleagues were out of touch with what was happening. I was like, “Why am I doing this?” I remember finding out that we were reading a paper about the Buena Vista Social Club documentary. The paper was not very flattering to the movie, for a lot of White Liberal criticism that I recognize now, exploitation, and my classmates were ripping it apart.
I was confused because, “I don’t know about you, guys, but I went to go see Buena Vista Social Club in concert, and it was sold out and it was beautiful. I don’t understand what your problem is here. These people are touring and making money.” I found out that none of them had seen the movie. It was the same thing with a Ladysmith Black Mambazo that was a similar situation that happened. We live in the real world, where people need to make money. If they are touring and making money, that’s a win. They are traveling to the United States and selling out concerts.
It’s weird, and also, the academic life is a grind. I have a friend who stayed in it, and she’s incredible. She wrote her dissertation on Psychobilly as a whole chapter on Monsters. She’s living in Texas. She’s from California. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but you have to go where the jobs are, and it’s not there’s a billion ethnomusicology jobs, and you’ve got to play the tenure game. It’s a whole thing. I’m not sorry not to be in it. Although, I do get jealous when she tells me about her classes and students. I see it now that I’m teaching but in another way.
I totally agree with that perspective. I do think that sometimes academia can get heady for only being heady. People are trying to one-up each other on their criticism of this or that. There is this removal from the plebeian pop culture or whatever. I love that you are in a place where you are like, “I’m on the ground level helping actual musicians make actual money.”
I loved school. I remember thinking when I was in grad school that I was exhausted and tired but very happy. I was immersed in it all the time, thinking, talking, writing, reading about music. It was awesome. I talked someone out of going to grad school for Ethnomusicology, someone who was interning at Pandora and already had a job. She was already in the music business world. I said, “Unless you want to teach, which is great. If you want to be a professor and want to be an academia, do it, but if you are going to learn cool stuff, which is great, we have podcasts.”
You can read books, and you can skip the boring ones. There’s a lot of bad academic writing out there. That was the other thing. I forgot how to read. I would read Harry Potter on vacations to remind myself I could read. There are so many amazing ways to learn about music, musicians, documentaries and podcasts. Academia is great. I did it. It’s not for everyone all the time. A lot of people that got their Master’s degrees and now are off doing other things because they decided to do something else.
There are so many resources that are available to people, as you said. Like this show that you are reading to, where we are going to get into some of the nitty-gritty stuff of what you can do to help your music career and connect with your fans by using a tool like Pandora. First, I would love to find out what was the impetus behind creating that the AMP part of Pandora, obviously to help artists, but what made you decide what to put in it and stuff?
I have been at Pandora for years, and a lot of the projects that we are working on now have been launched, especially since the pandemic started because we have been trying to figure out how to do this thing because we are going to South by Southwest or CD Baby, and we are talking to artists in person. Hopefully, we are going to get back to that. My boss is in Chile talking to Chilean and South American artists about AMP, which is pretty cool.
It’s a platform to help artists who have music spinning on Pandora to reach their fans who are already listening and to reach new fans. For discoverability, Pandora’s sweet spot, to discover ability element of it. We have tools to help boost tracks and give context to tracks. You can add little voice messages or we call them artists audio messages.
When you combine the two, you can give context to a song, to a listener who is not familiar with you. We have Pandora stories. It was launched when I first started. To me, it’s new, where you can make a playlist and insert audio tracks in between, so you can talk about the music whether or not you want to walk folks your new album and talk about the stories behind the music or talk about influences, why you love this song by Joni Mitchell so much, or a special memory that you have.
I made one for fun. I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a summer in college and threw myself into the music scene there. The early aughts in the UK were pretty cool. It was that post radio head thing that was happening. I went to an outdoor festival called T in the Park. There’s so much cool music. As I went back and had the roster because I kept the program, I picked out some songs and talked about Basement Jaxx, Morcheeba, and Oasis, and stuff that they had played there.
It was fun to talk about this concert that I went to, back in the day with some incredible music on it. We have seen people make mixtapes of music that they are listening to on tour. The other thing you can do is you can specifically call out geographical areas. You can pinpoint the Detroit or the San Diego area, and you can say, “If you are listening, we are playing at Joe’s Bar. Tap your screen if you want to get tickets.”
What’s cool, too is that we also have a heat map that tells you where people are geographically located. You can look at it and say, “I didn’t realize we had superfans in Oklahoma. Maybe next time we are on tour, we should try to incorporate Oklahoma. Let’s stop by see if we can get those folks to come out.” There are a lot of cool interactive tools, and my team helps artists use the tools.
To rewind a little bit for anybody that might not know about Pandora, I’m sure people here do but there may be some people that are like, “It’s another streaming platform.” What makes Pandora different from Spotify or Apple Music?
Our bread and butter is the Music Genome. It’s hard to do every track because, as I have learned, 40,000 tracks are released every day. We have a team. It’s about twenty music analysts their job is to sit with someone’s music for twenty minutes and analyze the crap out of it. They will take a song and analyze tambour, harmonics, rhythm, everything and give it a score. It’s the gene. Each aspect has its gene, and they rate it from 1 to 5. That goes into this huge database.
Let’s say you go to Samantha Margret Radio, pressed play, you are going to hear music by her and music that the Music Genome thinks you might base on those characteristics that are analyzed by the music analysts. We’ve got twenty years of data. Beyond that, we have listeners doing thumbs up and thumbs down. Also, user engagement helps formulate what you and other people listened to. We are all making this together.
That’s one place that stands out because Spotify has copied some of these algorithmic playlists or when you are listening to something, and then it goes into something else or whatever. It does a good job but you can’t vote, “No, I hate this. Don’t play this for me again or this was a bad match.” You can’t do that. I remember when I first used Pandora, way back. I thought that was the coolest thing ever because I was an online radio station person. I created Women of Substance in 2007. I was like, “Can you imagine if my listeners could vote on the songs, and it would change what played for them?” That is the coolest thing ever.
I know somebody who hates Pink, and I don’t hate pink but for some reason, she hates Pink. She was voting, no, whenever she got to Pink and trained Pandora, not to ever play Pink. That’s how you do it, I don’t think Pink’s spins are suffering because of my one friend but it’s cool. Especially for me, because I listened for work, when I get my end of the year wrap up, my playback, it’s always strange because it’s not representative of my musical tastes. It’s more representative of what I do at work all day.There are so many resources that are available to people right now to learn about music and musicians. Click To Tweet
I do notice that I will put on a station and it will play Laura Mvula, who is this goddess from England. I love her so much. I’m like, “We are good. This is great.” It knows me, and it knows that I love her, even when I’m inundating it with all of this other stuff that I’m doing for work. It’s very cool. If you haven’t used Pandora in a while, and believe me, a lot of people have not, I get it. It’s totally fine. If you are inclined, you can go log in, if you are able to do it, and see if it still remembers what you are listening to several years ago.
I’m so curious. I need to do this. It has probably been since 2011 that I have used Pandora, which is awful. I loved its functionality, and I’m not sure why I didn’t use it anymore.
What happened is that Spotify jumped in. I remember when it became available in the United States. because it wasn’t, it was a Europe thing. I remember my English cousins told me about it. What happened is because they were better with the on-demand stuff, and Pandora didn’t even have that yet, we’ve got in on that a little late. That’s what happened. Spotify does its thing. We are only in the United States because once you go international, you have to deal with all the licensing and on-the-ground stuff. We would love to do it but it’s a huge endeavor. We would love to do that one day but it’s not happening this year.
The other thing I want to say too is, we have a new feature on Pandora called Modes. When you go in, and you play a station, you can click on a different mode, and what it does is it pulls out different kinds of tracks. You can go to Discovery Mode, which will play artists that you might not know about, smaller artists, you can choose Deep Cuts, which is artists that you know but maybe recordings you have never heard, so outtakes, B sides, remixes or something.
There are also new releases, and not every station has this. It depends on the station. We also have curated modes. If you go to a genre station or some of the artists’ stations have them, you can listen to a Hosted Mode, where you will hear an artist talking about a genre that they are in, and then they will walk you through. It’s more a radio show. It’s cool.
Are there stations for every artist? If you looked me up, would there be a station for me?
There should be. If you are listening, and you are like, “I submitted my music to Pandora,” but nothing ever happens. When you go through your distributor, you can submit it to Pandora but it doesn’t automatically go live. That’s another thing that we are going to change because Pandora is traditionally a very highly curated platform.
It’s not working anymore because there are so much music and humans can’t do it all. You can submit to have your music analyzed, and once it’s live and analyzed, and you are spinning on radio, then you can have a station to play. Not every artist has it because you have to go in and make sure it happens but a lot of them do.
If people have submitted in the past, let’s say they have previous releases that went through their distributor, can they still get those on Pandora or might they already be on Pandora?
These are the links. It’s AMP.Pandora.com. If you have used Pandora before, you can use that login or create a new one if you want. That’s where you would go to make sure all of that happens and go through that process. You are also welcome to go to our social profiles and message me. Michelle and I are the ones that handle those. We have been building a community there. You can also email AMP support, and that’s AMP-Support@Pandora.com.
There are a bunch of different ways to do this but we can get you up and running. We also have a station called AMP Fresh Cuts. That is specifically for artists using Pandora. You can get spinning there. Spotify has, and other DSPs have a lot of pitching processes to get on the playlist and stuff. We don’t have that. We have AMP instead to help boost your spins, which honestly is more helpful because you have more control over what you want to do.
With an editorial playlist, it’s luck of the draw.
You have to pay for it half the time, too. This is all free. We have this AMP Fresh Cuts where you can get on a station, spinning and get moving there. We have noticed that that helps. You play your own station or have your mom play your station. If you are not in the United States, ask an American friend to play your station. That will help to get the gears running. My team, we are the Creators’ Services team, and we are here to help you use AMP and get all this going. That’s what we do.
This is coming to mind because it’s the holidays and also because I have a holiday album, and a lot of other artists do as well. How does the algorithm handle that as far as the stations? Wouldn’t it randomly play a holiday song by somebody?
The way that we handle that is that you are going to have two accounts, and one will have in parentheses holiday after it. They do the same thing for children’s music to help compartmentalize. It’s funny because I program Hanukkah music. It has been my joys because it’s ridiculous and fun. There are a lot of fun Hanukkah music. Some of that has gotten through and doesn’t have the holiday parenthesis but you should have it.
Once you have that holiday account, then the holiday music knows that’s what it plays. We have a ton of different genre stations, various holiday music, Christmas music, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. Let’s say, we went to your holiday station. It would only play other holiday music. There’s a special Music Genome for that. It has its own analysis system.
Would that mean I would have two different AMP accounts?
I’m glad I asked this in case someone is reading this that has that situation because I had no clue about that.
It’s the details of trying to figure it out when you get into AMP. When you go in and claim in your account if everything has been analyzed, you should see your main account and then the next one that says holiday in it in parenthesis. You can claim both of those.Sometimes, you can be overwhelmed by options, but once you get to know the lay of the land, you're empowered by it. Click To Tweet
If people reading this got stuff that they have put out already and don’t know if it’s on Pandora, they should go sign up for their AMP account. Is there some connection that they need to do?
If you know that you have submitted to Pandora and it’s not live, you can submit the music, and there are links on AMP for all that. If you see it live but you don’t have a station and you are not able to claim your account, then you need to get your music analyzed, and that’s the Submit button, too. Once you are up and spinning, you should be good to go. You should have access to your AMP account, and you can use all the tools like the artist’s audio messages, featuring tracks, and stuff.
If you are putting out a new release, you would need to check a box inside of your distributor to say Distribute to Pandora?
No matter what, you also always have to tell them to distribute to Pandora. Don’t forget to click that box. Once you have distributed it to us, once in your life, it should go live unless something changes, you go to a different distributor, the system is like, “We don’t know you.” If you see that there’s something wrong there, you need to reach out to us and submit your music again. People move distributors. They move labels.
They do. I have several students that have decided to move distributors, and I always think, “That’s messy.”
People decide to remove music. We have seen all sorts of stuff. People have different projects or they changed the name. There’s Jamie Freedman and The Jamie Friedman band, that’s two different artists. Each DSP handles it differently. We are trying to clean up how we deal with collaborations. For instance, with collaborations, it will all be live on the pages where the collaborators are on but in your AMP account, you will have a separate AMP account.
That helps keep things clean from the backend. Especially if you are into electronic dance music or hip hop and you do a lot of collaborations. In classical, it’s all collaboration from the metadata standpoint. It can be a little messy but that’s how we do. You figure it out and see what works. If you have more than one account, that means you have more access because you can do more things.
What I love about this is that they have access to you to get help. The most I have heard from people of these nightmares of their stuff being stuck in limbo is with these big companies where they can’t get anyone to help them and don’t know what to do to move it forward. I love that you are letting them know to, “Direct message me. We will get this fixed.”
We will figure it out. If I don’t know the answer, I will ask you to email AMP support, and that’s what they do all day. We are able to do a lot of it.
This has been helpful. I’m going to go out and download the Pandora app because I forgot how much I loved it. It used to be my choice of the way to listen to music admittedly before Spotify came along, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have both, and I will. I listened to enough music and in enough ways that it would be worth it to me. Is there anything else that we didn’t talk about that you want to let them know that they can do with AMP?
The other thing that I didn’t mention is that if you are reading and you are like, “This all sounds awesome,” you want to learn more but it was a lot to take in, we have webinars every month, the first Wednesday of the month. We will have another one in January 2022. We also have Office Hours. If you go to our socials, you will find those links. It’s a free registration. It’s Wednesdays at 11:00 AM. We answer questions. We walk everyone through the tools. If you go to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and look for Pandora AMP, you will find it. You can click the links, join us.
Even if that’s the only thing you do because we will give you all the links. We will walk you through everything. We have folks that come over and over again because they are interested in learning more because there are a variety of things you can do with these tools. As you dig more into them, you can get more ideas of how to promote things. You can link out. Whenever you do a voice track, you can say, “Tap your screen to check it out or to listen.” You can send folks to other Pandora URLs if there’s a new single or an album but you can also send folks to your website. We don’t allow Spotify and other competitor links.
If you’ve got merch on your Bandcamp, you will be like, “If you want to support me, click your screen. I’ve got merch on my Bandcamp. I’ve got an LP out. If you want to buy some vinyl or we are going on tour, tap your link.” We want to make it easier for you to communicate with your fans. We’ve got the webinars, the socials, and there’s AMP Fresh Cuts. You should listen to that. It’s an eclectic mix of up-and-coming artists who are using AMP like yourselves. You can pitch songs to us. They have to be less than two months old. It has to be new. AMP.Pandora.com, that’s the one thing you want to take away.
I love that you are giving everybody all this hands-on help to use your tools. Thank you so much for explaining all of this.
You are welcome. It’s funny when you say it like that, it sounds like it’s complicated. In the beginning, it seems pretty overwhelming.
It is for any platform. I have been building something on a new platform, and my head is spinning because there are so many options and things you can do and ways you can use things. You feel like, “I’m overwhelmed by options.” Once you get to know the lay of the land, then you are empowered by it. People generally, with any new platform, first feel like, “It’s another thing I have to learn and have to do.” They don’t feel empowered by it yet until they get that little level of mastery.
We are here to help you do that. We get it. Everyone on my team is a musician. We’ve got DJs and folks in bands, and some of us still tour and stuff. We will gladly explain it for the fifth time and are happy to do it. We do it all day, every day. Let us know what questions you have. If you want to be on Pandora and be using the tools, we are here to help you do that.
Thank you so much, Jamie, for giving your time and all this great information. I know the artists appreciate it.
You are so welcome, Bree. I hope to hear from you soon.
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About Jamie Freedman
Armed with a Masters degree in Ethnomusicology, Jamie has dedicated her career to supporting artists and connecting them with the fans that love them. Currently she works on the Creator Services team at Pandora and programs Classical Music helping artists achieve their maximum reach on the platform. She is also a classically trained vocalist, currently singing with Conspiracy of Venus in the Bay Area.