John Brandon

Pandora winning the fight for streaming music

By John Brandon
September 28, 2008 6:56 PM EDT

Over the weekend, Pandora - the streaming music service - sent out a message to call your congressman about a bill that would give Internet music a new lease on life. Apparently, it worked, with help from NPR and like-minded lobbyist groups, because the House bill just passed. Voting in the Senate starts Monday, and you can still call your Senator.

Also, it's not a done deal, since Pandora still has to work out licensing agreements with the music labels. Yet, it's the most recent call-to-arms from a Web 2.0 site that seems to have proved successful, and will likely mean that the Pandora service continues unabated.

I wrote about the impending death of Pandora in a previous post. I suggested a few fallback strategies for the site, but they stuck to their guns and fought for free streaming, even against pressure from radio broadcasters.

What does this mean for Web 2.0? It seems that, if your site has a massive following, you can mobilize your constituency for a cause. There's hope for "the little guy" and signs that the bit players in Web 2.0 can and will become the dominant forces in media.

One clear example of this is MySpace Music, which could have a lot of ramifications for big box retailers like Circuit City and Best Buy who depend on music buyers to come into the store looking for the new Radiohead in hopes that they will leave with an expensive stereo as well. With Pandora, it could mean expansion into a lot of other areas, a new round of funding, and a lot of momentum.

In the future, all music will be streamed over the Internet. The CD will die a slow and painful death. Each new battle like the one over Net music streaming will lead to finally winning the war, and the ultimate victor is the listener, who has the flexibility to listen to free music anywhere and is not restricted by a hard-copy medium.

One of the major battles, though, has to do with Internet speed. Right now, a few people have very fast connections, but most are running at just under 2 megs. That means streaming and even online stores such as iTunes are limited in the quality they can offer. Of course, the average listener has a hard time distinguishing a low bitrate file from a high bitrate file, but they are not the ones buying 30 new songs a week on iTunes, either. It's an interesting time to see how streaming music will continue to make a push into the mainstream market.

Send an e-mail to Pandora to congratulate them on the victory over the weekend.