aklikins and I went to the Carolina Theatre in Durham to see the founder of pandora.com on his road trip around the contry talking about Pandora and the future of music (roadtrip blog entry here). Met vileone there.
(aklikins says he's going to calibrate my note-taking based on his memory sitting next to me. How'm I doing? )
Tim founder Pandora
Been going around the country for six months, talking to people and listening.
started in 2000 at the crest of dotcom boom
didn't intend to be in internet radio at the time
Tim spent 10yrs in rock band
difficult for musicians to be heard, fans to find new music
ended up as film composer
his job was to figure out the musical tastes of a film director
started developing a genome kind of approach (what do they like?)
Was in San Francisco 1999 - crazy period of time - everyone was starting a company
lot of energy about music at the time - cdnow, IUMA, riffage
everyone thought online access would be great for musicians
then online turned into model of the existing music industry
march 2000 the internet bubble burst
raised $1.5m, lasted a year
the music genome project - about 400 attributes
have 30-40 musicians assigning values for each attribute
take 30-40min per track to score a single song
licensed the music genome to AOL, Best Buy, etc. got a little $ - not enough, but struggled by
in 2004 raised another $8m in venture capital
differences between 2000 and 2004
a) now broadband is much larger niche
b) licensing structure clarified DMCA in 98, clarified by a couple of legal cases (musicmatch, yahoo)
20,000 labels represented in pandora, not counting the unlabeled artists
had defined royalty structure defined
made it possible to do as a business
sept 2005 completed pandora
beta test 200 people friends & family
a week later 5000 users
the 200 weren't supposed to tell anyone
launched (scramble) 2005 october
huge growth in users, not subscribers
people don't pay for radio, they don't want to pay for internet radio
decided to re-launch for free
(still had to pay for every hour they stream)
at that time the Pandora CTO presented to Seattle bloggers
(Tom has no knowedge about blogs, explained them to the audience)
a couple of them posted some very favorable reviews
then /., digg, somethingawful, fark,
got some very favorable posts
can't see results in new signups when the LA Times talked about pandora, but can track server logs and watch spikes from the fark post
international - pandora not legal outside the US (licensing) why zip code required for validation
most popular zip code in registrations is 90210
tim got email from small village in Yugoslavia - they hold "Pandora parties"
curently 3.5million listeners
do a v. little search engine keyword buying, but that's just to figure it out
want to be listenable when not in front of laptop
3 listener to listener
not much now, basically can share a station and that's all yet
want to allow music-oriented conversation to happen
listeners correspond with Pandora a lot
lots of advice, bands
45 musician / analysts
20 software engineers
35 everyone else
Q: who'd you bring?
A: me & my tshirts
Q: iTunes & pan?
A: doesn't see a lot of comparison
they've talked to Apple often
(summoned to Cupertino often)
fulfill through iTunes
40% Pand users say they're buying more $
1% say less
Q: how do you make $?
A: the ads.
fixed cost current staff, doesn't need to grow
variable cost #hours streaming
raise more advertising revenue
average pandora listener clicks on P 12-15 times/hr
each time you unminimize the listener window, new ad show
most internet radio tends to audio advertising, which is annoying to listeners
how to help:
if you buy through Pandora and go to amazon through Pandora, Pandora gets a commission on whatever you add to the cart
so go to amazon, add a CD, then add a bigscreen tv
Q: 5-10 yrs from now
A: wants to be the company that started the musician middle class
still pretty small
when larger, wants this to be the mechanism that artists can financially sustain thmselves
got email from Germany says "I hate your government, love Pandora"
thnks music is powerful
thinks music's role has shrunk over years
over time, music tends to dwindle in importance for individuals
Pandora gets people excited about music
Comment from vileone:
bringing together of people
wants node people
needs to find another node guy with tastes like my own, like my friend over here. (Points at me.)
(badger boggles slightly, keeps typing.)
Tim: "What's his name?" "Badger."
A: that's how I think about community, helping you find new Badgers.
(I'm just typing over here. :) )
the way Pandora works
plays songs in sets
start with a song - play a song based on aggregate
next set takes stronger in one aggregate
if you like it, feedback don't like it, feeback
Q: connecting people
are you going toward a social network or not?
A: always be minor player, basis is the genome.
have one scale - every song has a Q-score thumbs up / thumbs down
that's Pandora's version of collaborative filtering
Q: wants to combine stations
almost wants sliders and direct access to the values
A: Log in tomorrow night.
Specific feedback - looking at adding "I don't like it because...."
down. One response was "C'mon man, it's Journey."
Tim loves Journey. Hates music snobs.
Q: _The Wisdom of Crowds_? A: Yes, seen him lecture.
Q: Thinks Pandora is like _The Wisdom of Crowds_. Wishes Pandora was more amazon or tivo-like.
Tivo allows a 1-3 scale, better than Yes/No.
Amazon allows 1-5 stars.
A: the pand music analysis system
how much vibrato is in a voice?
Each musician/analyst goes through 150 hrs of training.
Q: what is the mech of up/down separate in context? If I like the song but can't listen to it now, so I give it a thumbs down?
A: You screw us up when you do that. We don't know what your context is.
Skipping the song is a neutral value action.
Only allowed 6 skips/hr due to licensing.
2nd most requested feature is "like but skip"
Q: what happens when don't like the song but do the lyrics?
A: lyrics don't play a lot. Lyrics don't affect the musicality a lot.
I'm not much of a lyric person, that probably crept into my design.
Q: how to get into band?
A: send us a CD. We will listen. Don't take digital files.
1/3 of our music isn't available on itunes or amazon.
profile is drawn from all-music guide.
Q: put in first song. wants to pick a certain type of emotion, like "chill".
A: Define "Chill". What's chill to you?
no 16th notes, more whole notes,
comment: the backstage view was vey helpful.
A: The mood thing is very difficult. Your mood is not my mood.
One criteria of keeping a gene was to get 30people to be consistent as to what it meant.
Q: share, with permissions.
A; great idea
Q: would like station recommendations "based on what you're listening to".
A: that's like the social network
Pause button is infinite duration.
Q: back to lyrics being a minor issue.
Tried to have a Latin station
Got way off results from what he expected
A: we admit our Latin collection has a lot to be desired.
World music has an additional set of attributes.
Feedback is specific to a single station.
Q: do you care about wrappers, etc., to cut out the advertising?
A: right now it's not a problem.
We track them all, but we don't fight back.
there was a Pandora/last.fm mashup.
Q: are emp. in one location, what's it like, corp. culture., etc. ?
A: until last monday same floor, 2 offices. Just moved to 1 big space.
cube farm, then big open area, band stage.
People will get on stage & jam at end of day.
solid sense by people of what they're good at, defer to others who are good at what they're not.
one GUI designer back experience was designing childrens' interactive museums
people wanted to turn it into cockpit
since the launch & success, his wisdom is confirmed
Broadway and Mozart are common requests.
Have to grow our analysis group to accomodate world music.
Been driven by American audience needs.
Now we're looking at expanding.
Q: what's your philosophy on advertising?
A: they'd like to spend a lot of money.
we turn away advertising.
no porn, no gambling.
not ideological about it.
just launched a music-oriented charity (I missed the name of it).
double-bottom line (the second was social return) invest. fund was a recent investor
analysts wk 20hrs/wk, get benefits.
don't have to, but want to.
Q: metadata - access to user?
A: biased toward not including nonmusical criteria. why you get Neil Diamond or Celine Dion. They get lots of of hate mail from people who get Neil pop up.
One of his goals: "Let's end music snobbery."
Matchbox 20 became a whipping boy of music snobs.
Rob Thomas wrote an article about being snubbed by someone he met in a bar as soon as someone realized who he was. Heartfelt article.
at one time he argued the song should be anonymous. You'd have to click to see who the song is.
Q: why pandora?
A: she was a musician, and the bottom of the box was hope.
the box was full of surprises.
one of the few URLs stil
alternate 2ndrun names: pythagoras (invented the octave)
hard to spell and the url was taken
Q: (vileone): want to dive into an empty channel.
Completely random. sometimes I want music but don't know what.
Call it a Start button.
A: That's a new idea. Interesting.
Q: like pandora vs. last.fm because don't have to install software.