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Pandora and AT&T Ink Mobile Music Deal

pandora attThose listening to music online are probably familiar with Pandora.  The popular and fast growing company has been a pioneer in net radio.   On Thursday, they announced a mobile version of their highly personalized service will be available via AT&T Wireless on select phones.

Pandora’s traditional offering is built around an extremely sophisticated personalization engine.  Drawn from what was called the Music Genome Project, Pandora analyzes and catalog songs by as many as 400 musical attributes.  All that data is then correlated against music a listener’s likes and dislikes in order to build a profile and stream comparable music.  If I like music by Eric Clapton, B.B. King and The Rolling Stones, for example, Pandora’s engine will recognize the underlying blues riffs, they’ll recognize whether the songs are up tempo, or slow, whether acoustic or electric.  Then, when the song’s I’ve chosen are done playing, Pandora will play something similar – maybe something from the Allman Brother’s, or Buddy Guy.  They will recommend music my patterns suggest I might like.

Through the partnership AT&T customer’s will get the luxury of similar personalization.

The Pandora service will initially be available on 8 phones.  It will be provided as a free trial for 5 days and then cost $8.99 a month.   Up to 100 “personalized” radio stations can be stored on an account and those stations can be accessed anywhere on AT&T’s 3G cell network.   

The iPhone, for which AT&T has exclusive US carrier rights, will not be part of the offering.

As with the traditional Pandora service, customers using the AT&T version are able to rate songs (like/dislike) to improve the quality of personalization.  They can also save or bookmark songs to revisit later.

Fee-based cellular music services have not always been successful. It’s not clear this will be either, but that doesn’t make the deal entirely irrelevant.

The Pandora service will add to AT&T’s already substantial push in to Mobile Music and provide another offering at AT&T’s service buffet.  Other subscription services like eMusic, Napster will be available as other entree’s.  AT&T has also partnered with XM Satellite radio, music recognition service Music ID and Apple (via the iPhone/iTunes connection). For AT&T the Pandora offering is just another experiment to try.

For Pandora, arguably the same is true. This is not their first mobile music deal either. Last May, Pandora signed a deal with Sprint. The victory in adding another wireless partner is just added exposure.

Even if mobile subscription doesn’t work, content recommendation services are an increasingly valuable way to discover new content, and an equally effective way to separate quality from an overload in quantity. Pandora is at the top of the list when it comes to music discovery agents. Call this deal a marketing tool, another way for them to let people know they’re out there and offering an interesting service.


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