Pandora was one of the first music streaming companies to make a big splash, and it remains the most widely used streaming platform. But the company’s growth stalled out as the streaming wars escalated, with monthly listenership peaking at 81.5 million in 2014. Legally, the deck is stacked against online radio. Pandora in particular has suffered from costly royalty disputes. And on-demand services such as Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music have gradually eaten into Pandora’s market share.
But the company has been hustling to stay in the game. Last year they acquired Rdio with the goal of implementing on-demand streaming to battle Spotify, Tidal, and Apple head-on. And now, just like those popular competitors, they’re recruiting some celebrity firepower to bolster their standing among artists and fans.
The New York Times reports that Roots bandleader and walking musical encyclopedia Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has signed on to be Pandora’s first “artist ambassador.” Questlove hit it off with Pandora’s braintrust last fall in an informal meeting at the company’s Oakland headquarters. Impressed with the Music Genome Project, the complex organizational system driving Pandora’s algorithms, Questlove began discussing strategies with Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren. As Questlove told the Times, “I went in there to talk about playlists, and I ended up with a job as an equity partner.”
Part of Questlove’s duty is to promote Pandora among other artists, but his first specific project with the service is Questlove Supreme, a weekly three-hour radio show launching 9/7. Questlove describes it as an extension of his NYU music courses and “the black nerd version of NPR.” Maya Rudolph and Kimbra are confirmed as guests. In the interview, Questo seems genuinely stoked about the Pandora partnership in general and Questlove Supreme in particular: “This is a commitment deeper than any girlfriend I’ve ever had or any diet I’ve tried to stick to.”
An introductory playlist by Questlove is available here.