Opening Pandora's Box with Tim Westergren
Even though Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora Internet Radio, did his time touring in a beat up van as part of a rock band, he is now on a tour of a different kind. Tim now travels the country hosting town hall meetings, discussing everything from technology to entrepreneurship to the music business with anyone who is interested. Last week, Tim’s travels brought him to Omaha where he met with at least a hundred or so local folks—entrepreneurs, students, web developers, musicians and Pandora users—and shared the story of Pandora, how it came to be and where it’s going in the future.
What began as a road trip to discover new music and promote the Pandora service turned into an ongoing social media event. The Omaha town hall meeting was initially scheduled to be held at the Pizza Shop Collective in Benson but was moved to the Durham Western Heritage Museum due to such an overwhelming response and high number of RSVPs. While this may have been a pleasant surprise to Westergren and crew, it’s not all that shocking when you take into consideration the broad spectrum of people to whom the Pandora story would appeal.
To musicians, Pandora Internet Radio is a potential goldmine, a ticket to stardom. The old dream was to be discovered by some A&R executive from a big shot record label and sign a multi-million dollar deal. But as Tim has pointed out, technology has put the power into the hands of the people. Bands and musicians are now relying on street teams, fans, and followers on sites like Facebook and YouTube, and Internet radio. And with a listening audience of at least 50 million users growing at a rate of about 50,000 per day, getting air time on Pandora is becoming the modern equivalent of having a video end up on MTV. In fact, Tim’s vision for the future of Pandora would be:
"If your song plays on Pandora, you can quit your day job."
As a musician himself, Tim Westergren gets it. Like most people involved in the music business, he is driven by a passion for music more than by the desire for a fat bank account. And out of the 80,000 artists in the Music Genome Project database, 70% are independent, and Tim likes this statistic. He states that "once we reach the age of about 18 to 20 we become less connected to music. It’s less relevant to our lives, we’re not getting as many recommendations from friends, and we’re spending less time in record stores. What Pandora does is it reconnects you to music." Tim’s personal philosophy runs something along the lines of helping artists find their fans and helping the fans find music they will love. He is the Cupid of the music world.
So what can Tim Westergren and Pandora Internet Radio do to help local musicians? Obviously the first recommendation would be to sign up for a Pandora account, but given its popularity, you’ve probably already got one. If you are a musician or in a band, you can find out how to submit your music to be added to the Music Genome Project database on the Pandora website’s FAQ page. Pandora is your friend and Tim Westergren is on your side.
Given his generosity with his time and the wide variety of topics that were included in the discussion at the meeting, this article could have easily gone on for page after page. This simply focuses on the music aspect of Pandora Internet Radio and still only scratches the surface.
Did you attend the meeting, use Pandora, or have thoughts on the future of Internet radio? Comment below.
Local bands/artists are always welcome to contact us. We might interview you. Or give you a record contract.