Pandora's Tim Westergren comes for a visit

A very exciting day here in the Southland as Tim Westergren, Pandora co-founder, comes to the area for town hall meetings with Pandora listeners at UNC and in Durham.

Have you used Pandora and its Music Genome Project algorithm for listening to music and learning about bands like those you already like? I've got four stations setup, one each for Wilco, Dire Straits, the Avett Brothers, and Modern Skirts. The system then allows you to "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" each song so that the algorithm refines your musical tastes for future selections.

Well, the Music Genome Project is on the road, and Tim's blog tells us that he just spent a few days at Virginia Tech and UVa.

I love Pandora almost even more than my terrestrial or satellite radio, especially because I have yet to get an iPod. The web service is also a great way to learn about new music, a big deal for someone like me who no longer has a ton of college students in my lab.

The Pandora folks have been very kind in setting me up for lunch and chauffer duty today with Westergren (shout out to Dina and especially Michele for all their leg work). I look forward to learning more from Tim about how this whole system works, how they keep this free web offering viable financially, and how small local bands might tap into assocations with marque names.

If you're a Pandora user and not in the area or unable to make it to tonight's town hall meeting, drop me any questions here that you'd like me to ask Tim.

For those who can make it:

WHEN: Wednesday, September 20th at 7 pm
WHERE: The Carolina Theatre
309 W. Morgan Street
RSVP: E-mail to with "Durham" in the subject line

Among the questions we hope to tackle:

- How is technology changing the nature of radio?
- How important are community and peers when it comes to discovering music online? What's the best way to foster community?
- Can services like Pandora help create a larger middle class of artists who aren't superstars, but have enough of an audience to support themselves through their music? Do music lovers want more music discovery?

FYI - here is Tim's bio from the Pandora site:

Tim Westergren
Chief Strategy Officer & Founder
A musician's musician, Tim Westergren is obsessed with helping talented emerging artists connect with the music fans most likely to appreciate their music. He founded Pandora and now serves as its Chief Strategy Officer.

Tim is an award-winning composer, an accomplished musician and a record producer with 10 years of experience in the music industry. He has recorded with independent labels, managed artists, scored feature films, produced albums, and performed extensively. His main instrument is the piano, but over the years he has played the bassoon, drums and clarinet and his musical background spans such genres as rock, blues, jazz and classical music.

Prior to co-founding Pandora, Tim owned and operated Nightfly Studios, a commercial digital recording studio. Tim received his B.A. from Stanford University, where he studied computer acoustics and recording technology. He once had the privilege of studying under the legendary Stan Getz, whose words, "Remember, it's not the mode... it's the mood," still ring true.

He played with Stan Getz, people...holy cow!


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I listen to Pandora, too; and I'm happy to say I have a "Dire Straits" station as well. I've had a bit of a problem with my "Take Five" station: as I give thumbs up or down to certain songs, it seems possible to mind-blow their algorhythm: it takes longer and longer -- sometimes -- for it to find the next song. I guess my jazz likes have no discernable thread. Nevertheless, it's a great thing to have -- greater still to have come up with it. Music genome project. Great stuff.