Pandora for Business: Drawbacks and Alternative Solutions
What is Pandora?
Pandora is one of the most commonly used music streaming services in the US. Powered by the Music Genome Project, an open-source database that has been collecting information regarding musical tracks and unique music choices made by listeners, the streaming service performs well when recommending music in accordance with the user’s preferences. Along with the digital uprising of mobile devices, the service provided by Pandora became increasingly popular in the US during the 2010s.
As a consequence, many American business owners – who used to stream at-home music via Pandora – naturally started using the music service to play music in their business venues.
As a business owner, it is very important to know that using Pandora in a business venue is against the law, and will result in legal disputes and heavy fines.
Why Pandora is not designed and convenient for businesses
At first glance, it may seem like a great idea to use Pandora in your business, whether it be a restaurant, hotel, showroom, or store. Providing solid sounds that both your customers and staff enjoy is that every business owner should value, as it is known to significantly boost sales and increase employees’ motivation.
However, when using Pandora in a business environment there are multiple issues that point to the service not being a not commercial grade solution.
Within the free version of Pandora, there will be audio ads that interrupt the flow of songs at regular intervals. As you can imagine this can get incredibly annoying, both for the customers visiting your business and also for the employees. Subjecting your customers to advertising of any kind coming from any business than your own can directly negatively their purchasing experience, and will only hinder at the end their customer experience. Furthermore, you may even subject them to adverts from direct competitors, which will even more directly impact your sales output and brand image.
Flawed dislike feature
In order to more accurately predict the musical selection that is wanted for your business, you have the ability to “thumbs down” certain songs that you are not keen on playing within your commercial settings, using this feature can cause abrupt stops in the music playback. This only leads to confusion and will interrupt the musical atmosphere that is so important for the overall customer experience.
Censoring of Explicit Lyrics
When using the Pandora app within your business, be aware that there may not be the ability to censor all explicit content within the tracks. This could likely lead to the music upsetting your customers, making them not want to return to your business.
Legality of Licensing
Most importantly, however, when streaming music with Pandora in your business setting, you are breaking the law and could potentially be charged with a criminal offense.
Time and Competence Efforts for the Business Owner
It is important to acknowledge, that in comparison to other business-oriented music streaming services, Pandora for Business is more time-consuming to set up and requires more competence from the business owner. Users will have to manually select the rights tracks for their business image and customer types and individually schedule playlists for different times of day and days of the week. Also, business owners have to update all of their previously created playlists on a regular basis to keep a fresh music mood, which will stop both their staff and customers from getting bored. Finally, Pandora does not offer premade playlists for seasonal events (e.g. Christmas), and creating festive playlists by hand for your customers will cost time and effort.
It is stated clearly within the Terms and Conditions of Pandora, that in order to use their service within a commercial setting to play the music you need to have a separate license for the music, which must occur through a different service. Although using the app as a private user is perfectly legal and warrants no issues, the playback of Pandora radio stations for customers in your business establishment is illegal.
It is also important to mention that it does not matter if you have opted for the free version of the program or have opted for the premium, ad-free account that Pandora offers. It makes no difference if you are paying a monthly fee for the avoidance of advertisements, you are still committing an illegal act if you use this version in your business setting in front of patrons. Without the proper license, you are risking breaking the law. The only way to avoid these issues is to pay for a Pandora for Business account, which costs $26.95 per month. If you wish to purchase the extra media players this will cost you an additional $99 dollars plus shipping fees and taxes and includes no service options or maintenance expenses.
The importance of PROs
So why is playing Pandora in your business such a big deal from a legal standpoint? The actual reason behind this is linked to performance rights organizations (PROs), and the ways in which they control music licenses.
PROs are institutions within the music industry, that are in charge of managing royalties for the owners of music copyright, and also control the licenses linked to the music pieces. They mainly receive payments from the performances in public places of musical pieces that they own the licensing rights to, which they will then distribute amongst publishers, composers, musicians, artists, and rights holders.
Even if you only play music at a very low volume in the background of your store, you still require appropriate licenses to do so. When playing non-royalty-free music in your store, you are essentially giving a public performance of that song to your customer base, and therefore are required to pay fees to PROs for doing so. Thankfully there are specific music streaming services such as Soundsuit, that are specifically tailored for business environments and will automatically take care of any necessary licenses for you. These services are simple to use for employees, don’t take up any valuable time, and will effortlessly find the perfect music selection for your individual business. Exclusive and personal-use-oriented services such as Pandora have also attained licensing deals with certain PROs to get you access to music that you might like, however, if you in any way intend to use this music within your business, you can only do so by purchasing a commercial Pandora account and paying monthly fees.
Legal headaches when streaming Pandora in your business
If you ignore all the previous warnings and still decide to use Pandora to stream music within your business, or any other music that you did not get a license for, you may be subjected to a lawsuit by a PRO that is in charge of managing copyright for the specific track. The fines here are considerable, ranging from approximately $750 to a maximum of $150,000 for each violation, depending on the severity of the offense and also the nature of your business. It is important to keep in mind, that when using a streaming service such as Pandora, you are listening to music that is managed through several different PROs, meaning multiple lawsuits and a multitude of fines that can quickly rack up.
It is also important to make a clear distinction between actual radio stations, and the so-called song radios provided by services such as Pandora. Whereas it is perfectly legal to broadcast radio stations within your store (as these have long relations with PROs), you are however not allowed to play music from Pandora stations.
Another option, apart from choosing a suitable easy-to-use solution like Soundsuit, would be to directly contact PROs regarding licensing on your own. This is however not recommended either, as it can be remarkably expensive, is an old-fashioned way, and requires you to contact several large PROs as the majority of popular songs nowadays are managed by different PROs with individual music catalogs that do not overlap.
Instead, why not opt for the more convenient approach of choosing a streaming service made specifically for business. In exchange for a slight monthly fee, you can gain access to a fully legal alternative that automatically covers all licensing issues, recommends the perfect music in accordance with superb suggestion algorithms, saves you time, increases workflow as well as revenue and provides an all-around better customer experience.
Business-oriented streaming services vs. Personal streaming services
|Soundsuit, SoundTrackYourBrand, SiriusXM-for-Business, etc.||Spotify, Apple-Music, Deezer, etc.|
|Explicit lyric filter||✓||✓|
|Legal for business||✓||X|
|Ready-made playlists for businesses||✓||X|
|Centralized music management||✓||X|
The best alternative streaming services to use in your business environment
Headquarters: Munich, Germany
Founding year: 2017
Renown customers: Mercedes-Benz, Best Western, Puma, Porsche, Accor Hotels, Izipizi, BoConcept, Design Hotels, LVMH, Asics, World Trade Center, Moët & Chandon, etc.
- $24.95/mo with a yearly plan, $29.95/mo with a monthly plan (so you save $60 if you subscribe for one year)
- BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and GMR licenses included in the price in the US
- SOCAN and Re:Sound licenses included in the price for Canada
- No receiver mandatory; compatible with all major sound systems and streaming receivers
- Dedicated Soundsuit media player available on request for 199 USD.
- Compatible with Sonos
- Compatible with Google Chromecast, AirPlay2
- Web app, Desktop Apps (Windows and MacOS), and mobile apps
- The iPad app is especially well designed — with business users in mind.
- New tracks added daily.
- One-minute setup — for 1 store/location. No such easy and quick setup on the market so far.
- Time-saving smart features: playlist creation assistant, weekly music scheduling, automatic update of playlist
- Invoice automatically sent after subscribing – even if you only own one business location
- Service available in 50+ countries
- 30-day free trial period, no obligation to purchase
- Playlist-import function from Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Amazon-Music or Pandora only available in the “Pro” plan.
Soundtrack Your Brand
Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden
Founding year: 2013
Renown customers: Tagheuer, W Hotels, Toni&Guy, Joe & The Juice
- BMI and ASCAP licenses included in the price in the US
- No receiver mandatory; proprietary receiver recommended for multi-store businesses, or where internet connection is not stable enough.
- Web app and mobile apps
- Compatible with Sonos
- Song-by-song playlist creation tool (for owners with time and knowledge) – but only in the Pro plan for USD 49,99 / Month
- Service available in 70+ countries
- The most expensive music service among the 10 tested ones: 34.99 USD /mo for limited feature set, 49.99 USD /mo for unlimited app
- For multi-zone use-case within one store, one proprietary 199 USD device is mandatory for each music zone
- Import of your Spotify playlist(s) only. Not possible to import playlists from Deezer, Pandora, YouTube, etc.
- New titles added automatically every week — to your imported playlists as well as to their pre-built playlists. You cannot deactivate this function.
- No ASCAP and GMR licenses signed in the United States. This means that you will never be able to hear artists like Pharrell Williams, Drake, Childish Gambino, Harry Styles, John Lennon, George Harrison, Prince, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond or even Adele at any of your business location(s).
- Up to 40 minutes for full set up (custom playlists, scheduling calendar, etc.) — for 1 store/location.
- Only 14-day free trial
- Does not provide invoices for customers with fewer than 20 store locations
SiriusXM for Business
Headquarters: Washington, D.C., USA
Founding year: 2008
Renown customers: no reference found
- 100+ pre-made playlists
- Compatible with SONOS
- Advertising/messaging feature available
- Starting at 24.95 USD / month
- ASCAP, BMI and SESAC fees included in the US
- Free 30-day trial, no commitment
- Old-fashion user interface and user experience
- Not possible to search for songs.
- Not possible to build own playlists.
- Not possible to import your already existing Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, YouTube or Deezer playlists.
- Scheduling function to plan different playlists at different times of the day/week is not particularly user-friendly.
- Proprietary media player mandatory to play music in your venue. This piece of Yes costs 149 USD.
- Service available only in the US. Businesses located outside the US cannot access the service.
|SiriusXM for Business||SoundtrackYourBrand||Soundsuit|
|Setup Time||20 minutes||40 minutes||1 minute using SmartMood™|
10 minutes using scheduling
|US licenses & song catalogs||ASCAP, BMI, SESAC||BMI, ASCAP (Not available: Boby Dylan, John Lennon, Prince, Pharrell Williams, Adele, etc.)||BMI, ASCAP, GMR, SESAC|
|Import of existing playlists||Not possible, only pre-made radio channels are included||From Spotify only||From Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, etc. (only available in pro plan)|
|Territories||US only||70+ countries in the world||50+ countries in the world|
|Explicit content filter||Yes||Yes – but not activated by default||Yes – and activated by default|
|Scheduling of playlists||To be manually programmed via commands (web only)||Manual via drag&drop calendar (web only)||Manual via calendar (mobile and web) |
Automated via SmartMood™
|Playlist design||Pre-made radio channels (29 listed for business use)||Pre-made playlists (Essential plan)|
Own created playlists (Pro plan)
|No pre-made playlists.|
Only personalized playlists – based on customer’s own brand, target groups, moods, music genres, schedule (Essential and Pro plan)
|Duration of free trial||30 days||14 days||30 days|
|Payment methods||Credit Cards||Credit Cards||Credit Cards, ACH, SEPA transfer, SEPA direct debit|
|Provide invoices||Yes – but only for customers with a minimum of 20 locations||Yes – for all customers (no restriction)|
|Monthly pricing in USD|
for a yearly starter plan / pro plan
|$26.95||$34.99 / $49.99||$24.95 / $39.95|
If you take anything anyway from this post it is the following: watch out when using Pandora to stream music in your business! What may seem like a quick and simple solution can quickly lead to legal issues, costing you thousands of dollars. Instead, contact PROs regarding licenses or simply choose an easy-to-use and proven service like Soundsuit to enhance the mood in your business venue.
If you want to learn more about all the fabulous features Soundsuit has to offer, simply click here.
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