The Future of Radio

20 04 2008

Tim Westergren

I had the pleasure of seeing a lecture at Columbia University by Tim Westergren, the founder of and current Chief Strategy Officer. started in January of 2000 as The Music Genome Project, in an effort to characterize all music by attributing hundreds of musical ‘genes’ to songs. These include things like type of vocalist, guitar sound, rhythm structures, etc. A typical rock song has around 150 ‘genes’, while jazz songs mainly have upwards of 350 tags associated with them. was created to use this system and an additional algorithm to provide its users with a personal radio station.

Basically, a radio station is created when a user searches for a certain song or artist, and Pandora cues up a playlist that is made up of songs that match the musical ‘genes’ of the original query. Then, every time a song comes up, a user has options to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down to tell the algorithm whether he/she wants to listen to the song or songs like it. This type of recommendation system has done the company well, with over 7 million users and over $22 million in venture capital and debt financing. Also according to, Pandora has increased the total number of people visiting their website by 126.2%. The lecture was primarily about the business tactics of the company, and how they struggled and fought to finally make it profitable(for two years most employees didn’t even work for a salary). It solidified my ideas that traditional radio and satellite are both dead. My reasoning after the jump!

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