Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pandora loses the Great White North

For a long while, I've used Pandora to get my music fix. I have a weighty iTunes library for sure, but sometimes iTunes is too much of a pain to manage and tough set a good mix of what I feel like at that moment. That's where Pandora came in. The basic idea was that you set up a "radio station" by listing a few songs or artists that fit what you're looking for, then Pandora searches for and plays similar music in that area. You then help out by giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the song they suggested. For example, I had a "Rock ON" station that was primarily for 80's hard rock, a "U2 Radio" that was for 90's and 00's medium rock, and a "Cream Station" for 70's prog rock. My Pandora site bookmark even reached the coveted "Bookmarks Toolbar Folder" status on my systems.

But last night, I received this email from Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora and the Music Genome Project:
Dear Pandora listener,

Today we have some extremely disappointing news to share with you. Due to international licensing constraints, we are deeply, deeply sorry to say that we must begin proactively preventing access to Pandora's streaming service from Canada. We began blocking access from almost all countries outside the U.S. last week and had originally hoped to maintain access to Canada. However, it has become clear in the last week that we just haven't been able to make enough progress to continue streaming.

It is difficult to convey just how disappointing this is for us. Our vision remains to eventually make Pandora a truly global service, but for the time being, we can no longer continue as we have been. As a small company, the best chance we have of realizing our dream of Pandora all around the world is to grow as the licensing landscape allows.

Delivery of Pandora is based on proper licensing from the people who created the music - we have always believed in honoring the guidelines as determined by legislators and regulators, artists and songwriters, and the labels and publishers they work with. In the U.S. there is a federal statute that provides this license for all the music streamed on Pandora. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent license outside the U.S. and there is no global licensing organization to enable any webcaster to legitimately offer its service around the world. The volume of listening on Pandora makes it a very expensive service to run. Streaming costs are very high, and since our inception, we have been making publishing and performance royalty payments for every song we play.

Until last week, we have not been able to tell where a listener is based, relying only on zip code information provided upon registration. We are now able to recognize a listener's country of origin based on the IP address from which they are accessing the service. Consequently, on May 16th, we will begin blocking access to Pandora to listeners from Canada. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

We will be posting updates on our blog regarding our ongoing effort to launch in other countries, so please stay in touch. We will keep a record of your existing stations and bookmarked artists and songs, so that when we are able to launch in your country, they will be waiting for you. We deeply share your sense of disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding.
-Tim Westergren
(Pandora founder)
I've had email exchanges with Tim a couple of times before -- I'm always impressed when founders and C-level execs of companies take the time to respond to customers/users. I'm very disappointed to lose Pandora, and I'll put a candle in the window for its return.

1 comment:

David S. said...

Boo. Hoo. Indeed.

I understand the whole licensing thing, sure, but I've bought a few CDs lately that I first heard on Pandora, so this just doesn't make sense to me.

Now if there was even a rumour that some Canadian company was looking to buy some sort of rights here, and services like Pandora were diminishing the value, OK. But I haven't heard anything like that... you?