The race to stream Adele's 25 on one of the three leading music-streaming platforms is over, and Pandora (NYSE:P) is the winner. Entertainment Weekly is reporting that all tracks from the record-breaking album are available on Pandora, something that can't be said about Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Apple Music or Spotify.
The release sent shockwaves through the industry late last week. Adele's "Hello" -- the album's first single -- was made available across all platforms several weeks earlier. It seemed only natural that the rest of the songs from 25 would be made available when it was released this past weekend. That wasn't the case. Adele informed Spotify and Apple Music last Thursday -- the day before the album's actual release -- that it would not be available on their on-demand services.
What does Pandora have that Spotify and Apple Music do not? Well, the important distinction here is that listeners can't select specific tracks on Pandora. It's a music-discovery site and app. Unlike Spotify and Apple Music, where listeners single out the exact songs and playlists that they want to stream, Pandora just cranks out tunes that are customized to a user's tastes. That was apparently enough to sway Adele's camp to participate in Pandora without fears that it would eat into actual physical and digital record sales.
It's hard to argue with Adele. The new album has just broken the record for most album sales in a single week, and we're just five days into the release. That's a pretty big deal after more than a decade of declining music sales.
It's also hard to quantify what this will mean for Pandora. It's clear that the former dot-com darling has fallen on hard times. It experienced a sequential dip in both active listeners -- going from 79.4 million at the end of the second quarter to 78.1 million in the third quarter -- and usage -- going from 5.3 billion hours served in Q2 to 5.14 billion in Q3.
The arrival of Apple Music this summer likely forced a few of those defections. At the same time, we're seeing the fees and royalties rise that Pandora needs to shell out for the music it's playing. It's the perfect storm at both ends of the income statement, and the stock's getting squeezed in the middle.
Pandora has shed more than 40% of its value since peaking two months ago. The stock is trading for less than a third of where it was at its all-time high early last year. Having exclusive access to a hot album would be a neat way to attract new listeners; only this isn't exactly exclusive -- the album is available as a purchased download through digital merchants including Apple's iTunes -- and it's not as if fans can cherry pick the tracks that they want to hear.
Pandora has access to something that Spotify and Apple Music do not, but it's an empty trophy. It's a hollow medal, the kind of sad state that Adele seems to sing about like nobody else. Pandora may have 25, but its stock would have to nearly double to get there.
Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Pandora Media. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.