Pandora Brings Back the Radiostar, Part II

(This is the second part of an interview by Caitlin Servilio with the founder of the Pandora internet radio service, Tim Westergren. For part one, go here.)

CS: Pandora’s been mentioned in Rolling Stone and named one of the 50 Coolest Websites by Time magazine. Does it make you happy to see your baby get so much praise?
TW: It’s wonderful. I guess the baby’s more like a teenager by now! The greatest thing about being one of the 50 Coolest Websites is that the list wasn’t compiled by a group of editors. They came up with the list by talking to the people.

CS: How did you get the copyrights to play all this music?
TW: We have the right to play it under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. We signed one piece of paper and we can play any music we want. The artists do get paid, but we don’t need their permission. The act does limit what we can do—the listener can’t skip more than four songs in a row, and can’t hear any song immediately upon request.

CS: Will Pandora ever be anything other than free?
TW: It will always be free. There is a paid version you can subscribe to to get rid of the ads, but the ads are just visual anyway. That’s just to help us stay afloat. We’re not profitable right now, but we’ve been investing in a lot of different things, and we have some big plans for the future.

CS: Big plans? Like what?
TW: Right now we’re working on three general areas. First, we’re making Pandora mobile. Second, we’re working on making it international, with international music. I feel one of our most important contributions is to connect to other cultures—there’s a lot more great music outside the US than inside, but no one knows.

CS: So in the new Pandora, I could type in an American song and get to listen to a song in Japanese or German?
TW: Exactly. And the third thing we’re working on is, our users want to do more communicating with each other, listener to listener. So we’re working on ways to do that.

CS: What would you tell students who might want to follow in your innovative footsteps?
TW: College students should take summer internships. Make sure you spend summers working with interesting people, and if you can afford to work without pay, it’s perfect. It’s a great way to connect with people. Pandora took three interns last summer.

CS: Can I ask why you named the service Pandora?
TW: In Greek mythology, Pandora was a musician. And she opened the box of all the world’s troubles and let them escape, but at the bottom of the box there was hope. That sense of discovery and hope is what characterizes Pandora.

(The image is a painting by J.W. Waterhouse and is not affiliated with the Pandora service.)

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Alyssa Geisler said...

I think it is really ironic that the site is named Pandora. The phrase "Pandora's Box" is often used in the modern day to express worries about what too much technological and scientific growth could lead to. However, I think this site doesn't really fit with the idea of unleashed evil worldwide.

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