Pandora Doesn’t Hate Radio
As a young, struggling musician, Pandora founder Tim Westergren remembers radio with reverence and awe.
“We were all trying to get on radio. It’s always been the holy grail for artists.”
Westergren, Pandora’s Chief Strategy Officer, spent a half-hour chatting with Deb Slater and me for the Radio Stuff Podcast this week. It’s clear from the discussion that Westergren’s passion is in the music and for the musicians.
“My dream is that they’ll come a time when literally the day your song gets added to Pandora you can quit your job and get the band together and hit the road. The impact will be instantaneous and massive and global. So, whether you’re blue grass band or a classical pianist — on Pandora we will find your entire audience right away and allow you to pursue your passion as a career. That’s really the grand vision.”
Along the way Westergren will borrow ideas from wherever he can, including radio;
“We’ve learned a lot from radio, I tell you that. For one, the genius of radio was that it as an industry worked to embed itself ubiquitously; every car, every alarm clock, and every stereo – ultimately it became a home for AM/FM and that’s our same ambition.”
Should radio be concerned? Not according to Westergren.
“I think radio will always have a place here. I think there’s a shared playlist people always like to tune in to. There’s a community around that. It’s what I grew up on – the Michael Jackson’s of the world, U2s, and Cold Plays – these cultural tap roots have been created by radio and I think there will always be an appetite for that. I think they’ll live along side each other.”
Currently, Pandora’s app is embedded in over 1/3rd of all cars rolling out of factories this year. And while music is Westergren’s passion, don’t be surprised when Pandora adds news, sports, weather, traffic and shows.
“It’s not hard to imagine you could be playing your Pandora station it can weave in to it your favorite gardening show or news cast or a sporting team or whatnot. That, I think, makes a lot of sense over time.”
And regarding that word, “radio.” Why did he opt to attach it to Pandora?
“It’s funny, because we debated that a long time. What we do is very different. Ultimately, we just decided the “pros” out-weighed the “cons” and that it was the fastest and simplest way to communicate generally what we were to people. The truth is we’re still trying to find the right term.”
He doesn’t think it matters to listeners. Calls the “debate” over what is radio and what isn’t radio irrelevant and frivolous.
His advice for broadcast radio; go back to your local roots, invest in communication with your audience transforming listeners to evangelists, and make interruptions as painless as possible.