I enjoy listening to streaming music from Pandora while I’m working. (Special thanks to big Dave for sharing his channel with me so I don’t have to spend time sifting or curating the good stuff)
Pandora is an awesome product- it allows for discovery, evolves with me, and is generally a pretty good experience. I’m putting these thoughts out there because I enjoy their experience, really want them to improve it, and encourage other people to try it. Also, I read this bit by David Hornik from August Capital about Tim and persistence and was very inspired so I wanted to help out.
While the jury is still out on how successful Pandora will ultimately be (apparently there is a bet between Mike Arrington/Robert Scoble and Steve Gillmor on this very question), one thing is clear to me, Tim Westergren is the poster child for startup persistence. He has grown his company. He has shrunk his company. He has grown his company again. And through it all he has been an energetic evangelist, pounding on doors, living in airports, and doing whatever it takes to keep his company alive. I wish him the best of luck and hope that Pandora is a huge success. Entrepreneurs with the drive and determination of Tim deserve to succeed.
Now back to Pandora. I also listen to Grooveshark, but this is mostly when I have a particular set of songs that I just want to listen to. (This is pretty common actually, I have a work playlist that’s pretty cheesy and used solely to pump me up. Think Eye of the Tiger kinda stuff.)
I tried Blip.FM after Rich recommended it to me, but I just can’t get into it. There’s something weird about having to come up with a snarky comment and send it to the world in order to garner listeners and gain reputation that just plain rubs me the wrong way. Someday I’ll rant about the stupid unspoken follower/following ratio that people look at that remind me of elementary school pissing contests.
Anyway: Generally speaking I leave a tab of Pandora open and I’m off using some desk reference or doing something else in another tab. Sometimes, I like a song, and I come back to see what it is. And then what do I see? A tiny little tile…. Often I can’t read the whole artists name or the song title. And then if I click on it, it opens up in another window, taking me away from the experience of listening to the music. That’s like if I were listening to a song at a friend’s house, I asked him what song it was, and then he told me to go to some other record shop to buy it, instead of showing me the CD cover, and telling me more about it. Even worse, the irrelevant ads on Pandora are like the friend telling you about kosher pickles after you asked him about the music.. Weird, right?
Short digression. When I was in undergrad, I remember this company called AllAdvantage that made you look at ads on the desktop in order to get money. I modified some scripts to move a mouse and keyboard that allowed me to collect a check. Shhh, don’t tell anyone Many of you will probably remember this web1 debacle, but if not here are the highlights from wikipedia (literally):
AllAdvantage was launched on March 31, 1999, by Jim Jorgensen, Johannes Pohle, Carl Anderson, and Oliver Brock. During its nearly 2 years of operation, it raised nearly $200 Million in venture capital and grew to more than 10 million members in its first 18 months of operation.  The company’s practice of compensating existing members for referring new members led it to become one of the most heavily promoted websites of its time. That popularity was reflected in the ranking of AllAdvantage.com among the top 20 of many website traffic indices during most of the company’s existence, including Nielsen//NetRatings….
…AllAdvantage ultimately fell victim to the sharp decline in advertising spending as the dot-com bubble burst and the U.S. economy entered a recessionary period in mid-2000…
… The company continued to seek new sources of revenue and expanded its offerings to include sweepstakes. But the company finally halted consumer-facing operations in February 2001. By the time it closed its doors, the company had paid out over $160 million to its members.
So this analogy might be a little overboard but I’ll use it to be provocative and have some fun:
Some core truths exist here:
- People come to Pandora for a love of music
- Most sophisticated users know how to use multiple tabs. The adspace is mostly wasted unless the user is on the page. They’re essentially *not* on the page most of the time.
- The use of a radio station to listen to at work is common. Usually, the person is actually performing work and can easily minimize the browser to listen to pandora in the background and have office open
- There’s a certain age group in which people have a natural tendency to pirate music rather than purchase it. See Matt Mason on Pirate’s Dilemma / and most talks by Larry Lessig, they’ve nailed this.
- I fundamentally agree with Fred Wilson at AVC about piracy/streaming and content: He said “We used to wonder if we could “untrain” a generation to steal. The answer is yes. Just make it easier to get the content they want and they’ll stop stealing.”
- Pandora could make it a lot easier to connect with the music, purchase it, and do other stuff related to the artist (that I’ll get into later)
- It’s in Pandora’s interest to retain a user and (seemingly) upgrade to a premium membership.
Tomorrow we’ll roll up our sleeves and do a UX (and tiny business model) makeover on Pandora. Boy, I hope Tim actually reads this after all this effort.