That took years of work, including a serious investment in building promotional tools to help labels and artists. Pandora introduced an Artist Marketing Platform that allows acts to record brief promotional messages that play before their songs in certain areas at no charge; bought data company Next Big Sound so it could share more information with artists; and purchased Ticketfly, which means Pandora can now sell tickets to shows that it helps to market. “They’re focused on trying to repair their relationships in the music business,” says ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews. “Especially with creators.”
?Westergren says productive negotiations with the labels really didn’t start until he could “look across the table and say, ‘You know what? We f—ed up.’ ” (Westergren replaced former CEO Brian McAndrews, who had a background in advertising but, several music industry sources say, was less adept at dealing with label executives.)
When Westergren met with Morris, he told him, “‘Mr. Morris, when I was 25 years old I was playing in rock bands, touring around in a van, and I read all about you. I never thought that one day I’d walk into your office and shake your hand.’” They talked music for about an hour. By September, Pandora had the deals it needed. “Pandora went from a pariah to a partner,” says RIAA CEO Cary Sherman.
In the music business, nothing salves the wounds of former opponents faster than an opportunity to make money together. And Pandora represents a big opportunity. “They have 80 million users,” says Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman/CEO Martin Bandier, “so we all want it to work.”
The question for Pandora, of course, is how many of these users will pay up. “I’ve seen this movie before,” says Westergren. “When Pandora came on the scene we were far from the first and there were big incumbents: Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL. If you build a better product, people will come to you.”
Tim Westergren and Questlove talk about Pandora's Music Genome Project, which involves trained musicians categorizing songs to create Pandora's algorithm. Watch them discuss the process below.