Music Web/Tech

Is the end nigh for Pandora and Internet radio?

Depressing news via Alan Patrick at the Broadstuff blog that pioneer Internet music discovery service Pandora may be on the verge of folding.

As Alan says, “it’s a real pity if this happens.”

Sadly, the odds for Pandora’s survival don’t look good. And judging by the comments of founder Tim Westergren in the Washington Post, he sounds (understandably) like a man who really hasn’t got the energy to continue the fight. The double whammy of being forced to retrench the service back to the US and Canada only and trying to reach an acceptable compromise on royalties has taken its toll.

In fact, the future of the entire US web radio industry looks pretty dire. The hiking of web radio royalty rates stretches back over a year – and the wrangling continues. Unfortunately for Pandora and their peers, the RIAA backed Soundexchange can afford to drag this out as long as they want – with the apparent end goal of driving Web radio into the grave.

Then again, I find it hard to believe that Pandora will be allowed to die completely. Perhaps one of the established record companies will now step in and offer to take Pandora off its VCs hands for a knock down price? Perhaps CBS may buy it and corner the market in music discovery. (As I wrote last year for One magazine,’s decision to work more closely with the majors seems to have paid off).

Pandora (and LastFM) have been two of the most genuinely ground breaking Internet services of the last 5 years. To see one of them go to the wall – and lose the value of the Music Genome Project – seems to be a staggeringly stupid waste of time, effort and intellectual capital. Even if Pandora in its current incarnation goes under, I can’t believe someone somewhere won’t attempt to resurrect it – even if it is under the wing of one of the traditional record businesses that (in)directly appear to be contributing to its demise.