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Pandora spends $450 million to move into the market for selling concert tickets

The streaming-music giant has acquired TicketFly, hopes to challenge the reigning king, TicketMaster

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Pandora is the grandaddy of the streaming music world, arguably the oldest and largest service in the world, with 15 years in business and 79 million users taking advantage of its service every month. And those listeners use the service a lot, on average listening to Pandora for 20 hours a month. But the company has struggled to turn a consistent profit, in large part because a big percentage of its revenue flows out the door to the record labels and music publishers who own the songs it plays. Those rates are actually set in large part by the federal government, not negotiated directly the way rates for Apple Music or Spotify are. As a result, the stock is currently down about 50 percent from its high in February of 2014.

Today the company announced it was spending $450 million cash and stock to acquire TicketFly, one of the largest startups taking on the massive incumbent TicketMaster / LiveNation. The hope is that Pandora can leverage its position as one of the most widely heard radio services to move a lot of concert tickets, creating a new revenue stream which is not subject to governmental constraints. At the same time it's moving to align itself with the biggest moneymaking opportunity left in music: live events.

"This is a game-changer for Pandora."

"This is a game-changer for Pandora — and much more importantly — a game-changer for music," said Brian McAndrews, chief executive officer at Pandora, in today's press release. "Over the past 10 years, we have amassed the largest, most engaged audience in streaming music history. With TicketFly, we will thrill music lovers and lift ticket sales for artists as the most effective marketplace for connecting music makers and fans."

Pandora isn't alone in chasing this opportunity. Spotify includes tour dates and fan club offerings on its artist pages, and Tidal has made access to exclusive concerts from its celebrity stakeholders a central part of its pitch to consumers. Musicians now earn the lion's share of their revenue from live touring, meaning this business is critical not just to the streaming music companies, but to the acts which supply them with songs. People across the music industry will be watching closely to see if Pandora, with is massive size and engagement, can actually help to fill venues for artists big and small and challenge the dominant lead held by TicketMaster / LiveNation.