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Pandora to let artists send audio messages to fans

Next time you finish listening to a track on Pandora, don’t be surprised if the artist starts talking to you.

The music streaming service is planning to launch a new feature that lets music makers send audio messages directly to their fans. The messages, which would come after a track finishes playing, might be about a forthcoming album, upcoming tour dates, or simply some background information on the song you’ve just heard.

News of the feature came from Pandora founder Tim Westergren, who was speaking at this week’s Re/code event in Laguna Niguel, California.

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Artists such as Lenny Kravitz are already trying out the free service, called Audio Artist Messaging, and if all goes well, we can expect to see it rolled out on a wider scale soon.

Pandora has been pulling a number of moves recently to make its service more attractive to artists. Toward the end of last year, for example, it introduced an analytics tool giving musicians access to data showing the geographic and demographic breakdown of their Pandora audience, as well as information on which tracks are performing the strongest at any given time.

Down the road Westergren said the service could also introduce a virtual ‘tip jar’ to give up-and-coming artists a better chance of earning a few bucks from appreciative fans.

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Of course, much of the information contained within artists’ Pandora messages will also be pushed out via their social media channels and websites, all of which are likely to be viewed by a dedicated fan. But placing additional, personalized material right alongside their music could certainly prove popular with artists as they seek to build and maintain a close relationship with their dedicated followers, many of whom may welcome ‘bonus’ content from their favorite musicians. It could, of course, send a few more users Pandora’s way, too.

On the flip side, what if you just want to hear the music and aren’t interested in having the track flow interrupted by spoken remarks? Will there be an option to turn the messaging feature off?

Pandora currently has just over 80 million active users, about 20 million more than its main rival, Spotify, but whereas the latter is available in more than 60 countries, Pandora operates only in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, with the vast majority of users based in the U.S.