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If you’re a digital music service, you’re pretty much doing everything possible to build your user base. There’s an unnecessary amount of streaming/ online platforms, so whoever has the most listeners is going to lead the market. Pandora, Spotify, Sound Cloud, Beats Music, etc. these companies are making little to no money, but they have to invest marketing dollars to establish themselves as the premier online destination for music. So I could understand Pandora’s objective for hosting the Pandora Discovery Den Holiday 2014 this past Saturday.

Held at the classic Hammerstein Ballroom, the very-well produced event featured performances from rising artists Rudimental, Kiesza, and The Neighborhood. Attendees braved a treacherous downpour of rain, some waiting for a couple hours, for the free concert. Once inside people were confronted with blatant advertising and branding (how else is Pandora going to pay for all this?). I thought most of the activations could’ve been better executed, as a couple of them didn’t make much sense. TV network TBS sponsored an elevator and the coat check, while Pillsbury hosted a glowing blue room that served no real purpose. The only clever initiative was from T-Mobile, who sponsored a “VIP” area that wasn’t very VIP because everyone had access to it as long as they tweeted a generic “Thanks to @TMobile I’m celebrating #musicfreedom VIP style” to get in. This helps T-Mobile generate some awareness online through a sizeable number people, so I thought it was pretty smart. The greatest disappointment, that should’ve been obvious for an event like this, was the lack of an alcohol sponsor.

The concert itself was great. A friend recently introduced me to Rudimental and they really impressed me with their sound. The group’s combination of drum & bass, dance, and soul induced the crowd to dance, waving around their Express branded glowsticks (this sorta makes sense?). Kiesza performed right after and she maintained a consistent high level of energy with her dance-pop records. The Neighborhood closed out the show, but by this point, my starving stomach had shifted my attention towards fried chicken in nearby Korea Town.

Even with all the misguided branding, I thought it was a great event by Pandora. It was highly memorable and tasteful, and surely elevated brand affinity. One thing Pandora should’ve done is make attendees download the mobile app as a requirement for entry. This relates back to building a user base, and I’m certain would download Pandora for a free show. I’m sure Pandora’s competitors are gearing up their own experiential events. For me, I’m not loyal to any online music service, but hey, if they want to fight for my attention, I’m easily swayed.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.