There were no grades. It was a real-world assignment: design a national marketing campaign which aimed to empower underserved musicians and youths in Los Angeles to pursue careers in music.
The partners weren’t professors. They were two successful companies and an award-winning artist who visited campus as part of the Pandora Challenge: Music and Social Impact program. Pandora, the largest streaming music provider in the U.S., partnered with nonprofit organization Real Industry to launch Made of Music, the foundation of musician, record producer, and songwriter BloodPop® which seeks to reach young, underserved musicians across Los Angeles.
On Wed., Oct. 4, the Pandora Challenge arrived on campus for a kickoff event, and students from Thornton’s Music Industry program were divided into teams ranging from 3-5 members. They had until Oct. 17 to create a campaign that would be judged by a panel of industry experts which included members of BloodPop®’s management team Daouda & Nikki Leonard, Pandora’s artist marketing and industry relations managers Heather Ellis & Vanessa Ide, and Real Industry’s directors Jay LeBoeuf and Priyanka Shekar, and, ultimately, implemented by the foundation.
“I’ve never seen 120 Music Industry students from all different grades interacting and working together in my 13 years of being here at USC,” said Paul Young, chair of the Music Industry department. “Students don’t realize it yet, but these are the people they’ll be working with in the business world. Your team is a cohort of allies that will always have your back.”
These weren’t pie-in-the-sky proposals. Students were given access to analytics and data from Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform, Next Big Sound, and 74 million monthly listeners. Granting privileged access to back-end social media and streaming data analytics allowed students to gain first-hand experience, all with resources that are generally available to industry professionals exclusively.
“The industry is moving more towards utilizing streaming analytics, and Pandora is one of the only routes to obtaining that data,” said Young. “I couldn’t imagine a better resource than the streaming insights of AMP coupled with the social media insights of Next Big Sound.”
Matthew Solis, a USC Thornton senior and member of the winning team, elaborated upon their direct access to the back-end analytics of AMP and Next Big Sound, stating that “it allowed our team to approach the campaign in a targeted way.”
“Using these platforms, we were able to identify demographics and geographic populations efficiently,” he said.
The project encouraged collaboration between freshmen and seniors alike, and students utilized their differing skillsets and levels of experience to generate a diverse range of marketing campaigns. In all, the 120 students who participated created over 30 proposals for BloodPop®’s Made of Music Foundation to choose from. Priyanka Shekar, Real Industry’s Program Director added that “students launched an impactful live campaign that went beyond the artist to promote a social initiative, and developed their portfolios and professional networks set for industry.”
The Pandora and Real Industry professionals were “blown away by our student base,” Young said. “They had never seen anything like that before.”
“The opportunity to be back on a college campus, working with students in a group setting to solve important problems in the creative community is unmatched,” said Daouda Leonard, BloodPop®’s manager.
Creating a three-phase marketing product which incorporated a music industry quiz and digital hub in combination with regional events such as concerts, workshops and mentorship fairs, a team of seniors that included Solis, Joelle Ferguson, and Benjamin Victor were crowned Pandora Challenge winners.
“The crux of our idea was to link students with mentors and other students in their area with the passion of pursuing music,” Solis said. “Our overarching goal was to build a sense of community.”
Synthesizing their individual skills, the team was able to design an innovative and creative marketing campaign. “Matthew brought the networking, Joelle brought the marketing, and I brought the philanthropy,” Victor said. “Once all of those different aspects mixed, we had a winning combination.”
All of the students who participated were incredibly grateful for the experience.
“Collaborating with Pandora and BloodPop®, as well as the potential to work with other music industry programs around the country, is truly beautiful,” Ferguson said. “I can’t wait to see how our idea, and this partnership, continues to grow.”