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Pandora will let bands insert voice messages into your music stream

Fear not: you'll only hear from musicians you like.

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Social media has increasingly broken down the walls between musicians and their fans, allowing bands to have more direct conversations with the people listening to their music. The "artist marketing platform" (AMP) that Pandora launched a few years ago was meant to be part of that move, helping to enable that connection between musicians and fans. In an effort to foster that connection, Pandora is launching AMPcast, a new feature in Pandora's existing artist management app that lets musicians record messages to fans on-the-go and insert them right into a user's audio stream.

A musician participating in Pandora's AMP program can use the new app to record a quick message to fans, add a link and then share it out to their listeners with speed and spontaneity. Perhaps the most obvious use case is a band alerting fans to a new album release or that there are still tickets available for a concert that night, but Pandora expects it'll become an all-purpose way for artists of all sizes to reach fans and even grow their audiences. The messages can include a call to action link so you can click for more details.

If you're worried about your listening experience getting cluttered with messages you don't want to hear, fear not. For starters, Pandora will only insert audio messages from artists that you've used to start a station or who have songs you've liked. So you shouldn't hear messages from bands you couldn't care less about. Unlike Pandora ads, you can skip past artist message, and you can even opt-out of the entirely.

In Pandora's view, the magic for artists is the combination of the company's reach and targeting. For starters, artist messages are only delivered to listeners who've expressed an interest in that artist, but the company envisions a time in which it can use the vast amount of data it has tying together related songs and artists to serve listeners messages from bands they've never heard before. Pandora thinks that could be very valuable to smaller groups trying to find an audience. There's even talk of making these messages location-based -- so if a band is chatting about its concert in New York City, listeners in San Francisco won't necessarily have to hear about it.

Much of the story around Pandora over the last year has centered around the company's move towards offering listeners ways to engage with music they love beyond just listening to songs. The company bought Rdio in an effort to eventually compete head-on with Spotify, launched new recommended stations to help users find new music and purchased Ticketfly in an effort to get its listeners buying tickets to see their favorite bands. This latest initiative ties in well with the Ticketfly move, as artists can directly talk to listeners about upcoming shows as well as have a link to buy tickets.

The program launches today in a limited fashion: only a small group of selected artists can participate for now. But Pandora plans to roll it out to anyone using its AMP platform soon after it gets data on how the service is best used. The company wants to optimize the frequency of messages and get better at targeting before widely rolling it out.

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