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Digital Audio Insider is David Harrell's blog about the economics of music and other digital content. I write from the perspective of a musican who has self-released four albums with the indie rock band the Layaways.

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June 18, 2009

Pandora Raises the Bar?
by David Harrell
A couple years ago, I was on the "Disintermediation 2.0: How Technologies Are Flipping the Music Business On Its Head" panel at the Future of Music Coalition's Policy Summit. In response to audience member's question about the need for indie musicians to manufacture CDs, I said that it was still necessary for promotional purposes -- that college radio stations weren't going to download your mp3s and probably didn't want a CD-R with your name written in magic marker. Pandora founder Tim Westergren, who also on the panel, was very quick to say that Pandora would be happy to add that homemade CD-R to its library.

Not anymore, however. Pandora recently revamped its music submission process and will only accept material that's already available for sale on Amazon.com as a CD, not mp3:
We're very excited to announce a brand-new process to submit your music (or your band's music) to Pandora.

You'll need:
* a CD of your music
* a unique UPC code for that CD
* your CD to be available through Amazon (must be a physical CD, not just MP3s for download)
* the legal rights to your music
* MP3 files for two of the songs from your CD
* a free Pandora account, based on a valid email address, which can be associated with your music
The Pandora FAQ page links to Amazon's Advantage program, which requires shrinkwrapped, manufactured CDs, not CD-Rs. Pandora earns a referral fee when listeners click through to buy music from Amazon, though Amazon pays referral fees for both mp3 sales and CDs. So protecting the referral earnings probably isn't the reason for requirement -- it seems likely that it's simply a hurdle that's been set for potential Pandora artists.

I can't say I blame Pandora for the move -- given the amount of self-released music out there, requiring Amazon-available CDs is one easy way to cull potential submissions to its library. If Pandora, however, is willing to accept the "on demand" CD-Rs that comes from Amazon's on-demand CreateSpace program, then it's still a relatively low hurdle to clear.

Update: I've been reviewing that Amazon Advantage guidelines and can't find the reference to manufactured audio CDs vs. CD-Rs. The current requirements for CDs are a UPC, a bar code, and shrink wrap. Previously, a "no CD-R" rule was definitely in place. So I'm wondering if Amazon dropped the requirement after the launch of the CreateSpace program.

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    THE LAYAWAYS

    Out Now -- "Maybe Next Year" -- The New Holiday Album:

    <a href="http://thelayaways.bandcamp.com/album/maybe-next-year">Joy To The World by The Layaways</a>

    "This is a sweet treat, deliciously musical without being overbaked for mass media consumption." -- Hyperbolium

    "Perfect listening to accompany whatever holiday preparations you may be making today." -- Bag of Songs


    O Christmas Tree - free mp3 lyrics and song details
    Away In A Manger - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, iTunes, Amazon MP3, or Bandcamp. Listen to free streams at Last.fm.



    album cover art from The Space Between

    <a href="http://thelayaways.bandcamp.com/album/the-space-between">Keep It To Yourself by The Layaways</a>

    "...about as melodic and hooky as indie pop can get." -- Absolute Powerpop

    "Their laid-back, '60s era sounds are absolutely delightening." -- 3hive

    "...melodic, garage-influenced shoegaze." -- RCRD LBL

    Where The Conversation Ends - free mp3
    January - free mp3
    Keep It To Yourself - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, iTunes, Amazon MP3, or CD Baby, stream it at Last.fm or Napster.



    album cover art from We've Been Lost

    <a href="http://thelayaways.bandcamp.com/album/weve-been-lost">Silence by The Layaways</a>

    "The Layaways make fine indie pop. Hushed vocals interweave with understated buzzing guitars. The whole LP is a revelation from the start." -- Lost Music

    "Catchy Guided by Voices-like rockers who lay it on sweetly and sincerely, just like Lionel Richie." -- WRUV Radio

    Silence - free mp3 lyrics and song details
    The Long Night - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, Amazon MP3, or iTunes, stream it at Last.fm, Napster, or Rhapsody.



    album cover art from More Than Happy

    "These are songs that you want to take home with you, curl up with, hold them close -- and pray that they are still with you when you wake up." -- The Big Takeover

    Let Me In - free mp3
    Ocean Blue - free mp3

    Download from eMusic, Amazon MP3, or iTunes, stream it at Last.fm, Napster, or Rhapsody.

    More Layaways downloads:

    download the Layaways at eMusic download the Layaways at iTunes

    the layaways website