An open letter to the founder of the Pandora Music Project

I’ve been a Pandora listener since 2008, and the last three years have been the greatest phase of musical discovery of my entire life. I’ve always been partial to instrumental and electronic music, and my tastes have never been well represented here in the US – although unbeknownst to me this music has flourished throughout Europe for the last two decades. Once I found the right seeds for my Pandora channels, I was showered with the music I wished I’d had 10, or even 20 years ago. Not a single note of it would ever be played on terrestrial American radio. I can’t honestly say it has changed my life, but it has profoundly, unimaginably, unspeakably enriched it.

As I listened to my Mogwai and Fluke channels, I thought about a 26-year old telling me about her Lady Gaga channel the day before. “Really?” I thought to myself. You could stand at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, stare up at it and say, “No, I think I’ll stay here and have a drink from the toilet”?

The promise of Internet radio, from the moment those guys at Real figured out how to get audio to stream (barely) over a 28.8 modem in the mid-90’s, has always been to revolutionize the music industry by opening the doors to a flood of musical talent that was inaccessible through the corporate radio model, and usher in a new era of direct connections (and revenue) between musicians and their fans. Yet, here we are fifteen years later, and the music industry is a trainwreck and the Gen Ys still crave a steady diet of the basic corporate gruel. What went wrong?

I know that Pandora won’t be the same forever. I know you want your large and well-deserved payday for yourself and all the musicians who brought Pandora to life and sent broadcast radio to its ignominious death. I know the day will come when some media conglomerate will buy Pandora and you’ll retire in Bora Bora with naked nymphets in diamond-encrusted tiaras serving you drinks with paper umbrellas in them, but I know that it will also signal the end of Pandora as we know it. Someone else who is not concerned with the purity, the algorithmic perfection of the musical selection process behind Pandora, will come along instead and exploit the “Lady Gaga” effect, as I’ve decided to call it. But it will be a sad day for us all, as the beauty of what you and your loyal minions have created slowly degenerates into the pile of corporate shit it will eventually become, and the cycle of radio begins again until the next supposed revolution.

I know it’s coming, I don’t know when, and I know I can’t do much about it, but I’m enjoying the ride while it lasts. Thanks for driving the magic bus this far.

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