The Untold Story of Pandora Internet Radio
The Untold Story of Pandora Internet Radio
A book about the ultimate startup success. But, before Pandora disrupted radio, it was something else that almost didn't survive.
A book about the ultimate startup success. But, before Pandora disrupted radio, it was something else that almost didn't survive. Read more
January 9, 2014: Why Bruce Springsteen Ends Up on Taylor Swift Radio
That's my favorite article from the series I put together late last year and published early this year at TheStreet.com on Pandora's Music Genome Project (MGP).
Pandora afforded me an unprecedented level of access to its proprietary music personalization and discovery platform. Me. Not Billboard. Not Rolling Stone. Not Tech Crunch. Little old me. Please pardon the humble brag, but I'm excited about -- and proud of -- my work over the last couple of years with Pandora.
I urge you to check out the behind-the-scenes MGP series on the front end of your assessment of this project:
January 9, 2014: A Song-By-Song Breakdown of How Pandora Decides Which Song to Play
January 8, 2014: Exclusive: Inside Pandora's Music Genome Project, Part Two
January 7, 2014: Exclusive: Inside Pandora's Music Genome Project, Part One
Throughout this project description, I intersperse links to relevant stories I have written for TheStreet.com and Pandora-related videos I have produced. Consider these pieces surface scratches of the level of detail and storytelling the book will contain. The book pulls everything together from before day one to a thoughtful look at Pandora's role in the future of music and radio. Two industries Pandora and other music startups have disrupted, reinvented and redefined.
Ultimately, it's not my video or this "pitch" that's going to trigger your decision to help fund my project; it's the work I do and the unique access and insight I have into one of tech's most interesting and successful companies. It's your belief that I am the journalist who should write the book that needs to be written about Pandora, Internet radio and how this force has transformed and continues to transform the music and radio industries.
Here's a link to my author page at TheStreet, which lists every article I have written over the last two years or so. Many of them deal with Pandora and related subject matter.
BOOK PROJECT (to be completed by the end of 2014) ... Working Title - The Untold Story of Pandora Internet Radio: How a Once Struggling Startup Transformed The Music Industry
When everybody from Wall Street to quite a few people in the music industry had written Pandora off I was explaining why the company would not only survive, but thrive, fending off competition the media repeatedly argued could and, in some cases, would "crush" it.
See December 3, 2013: Pandora: The Definitive Look Back and Look Ahead (Link includes excerpts from writing I did on Pandora roughly two years, where I accurately predicted the company's trajectory).
Now, as of January 10, 2014, the launch date for this Kickstarter campaign, Pandora's stock has quadrupled off of its lows and the company, in many ways, leads and dictates the pace and shape of change in the music and radio industries.
According to a report from Nielsen, via The Wall Street Journal, music streaming in the U.S. increased 32% in 2013, while digital music downloads dropped 6.3%. That's a trend that will only intensify thanks, primarily, to Internet radio, led by Pandora and new, tech- and data-driven ways of funding, distributing, promoting and marketing music.
See from August 1, 2013: Downloads Die, Apple Lives, Music Industry Suffers
Also see, from November 5, 2013: Startups, Not Apple, Will Lead Music Industry's Rebirth
The Untold Story of Pandora Internet Radio will trace Pandora's role in getting us to where we are now.
It begins with the story of Pandora's founding and its beginnings as a struggling startup called Savage Beast Technologies in San Francisco during the dot-com boom, bust and eventual resurgence. I will chronicle the many times it appeared Pandora would be crushed, not necessarily by competition, but under the weight of being a startup without a firm sense of what it would do with the technology (the Music Genome Project) it was building.
From there, I cover Pandora's decision to disrupt traditional radio, a move co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren says was prompted by former CEO Joe Kennedy. Once Apple introduced the first iPhone -- with Pandora a prominent feature -- growth occurred exponentially. (That's a story in itself -- Pandora being part of the process, with Steve Jobs, that initially marketed Apple's iPhone).
How did Pandora become a leader? And how did it disrupt multiple industries in the process? The broad music and radio industries and various sub-industries, particularly indie music and advertising, within each?
I will draw on my background as a broadcast radio personality (I grew up on radio, starting in the business as a child of the 1980s and working in it through the year 2000) to explain how it disrupted radio first. From there, I will dissect issues such as music royalties, a traditionally sour point of contention between major record labels, other factions in the music industry and Internet radio.
Then I look ahead with a focus on the music industry, but, more importantly, music and musicians. Quite a few musicians fear Pandora and Internet radio. They shouldn't. Others, such as Bronze Radio Return, have thrived by working with Pandora by leveraging its data-driven, scientific approach to serving streaming radio.
See from June 24, 2013: A View on Pandora From Indie Rock
In the final section of the book, I broaden the scope a bit, discussing other music-related companies, including ones I consider key startups, and explain how they, pioneered by Pandora, will usher in a new era of prosperity for the music industry. While it won't look like the world the major labels run in, it will be a more exciting and positive one than they what they created.
1. The Founders
2. Struggles as Savage Beast Technologies
3. Pandora Becomes Pandora
4. Radio Industry Disruption
5. Music Industry Disruption
6. Pandora's Place on Apple's iPhone
7. Can Pandora Maintain Its Lead in Internet Radio
8-9. How Startups Will Drive the Music Industry
10. A New Age of Prosperity For the Music Industry
Throughout the book, but, particularly in Section Three, I plan on talking to Pandora investors, avid Pandora listeners as well as other startup founders and, perhaps most interestingly, indie bands, managers, record labels and other musicians and people involved in the music industry.
This Twitter exchange helps illustrate not only the obvious association between Pandora and musicianship in the digital era, but the notion of artists managing their enterprises much like startups manage theirs ...
Pandora helped usher in an era we're really just starting to live ... the new era of DIY for musicians via platforms ranging from Kickstarter to Bandcamp to Songiest to Concert Window.
Pursuant to this new reality, I plan to color the entire book with stories of individuals, companies and artists who parallel, complement and supplement the Pandora story. You can see quite a few examples of this approach -- in the scaled down Web article format -- throughout my article history at TheStreet and at the links throughout the project description.
See from November 4, 2013: The Company With a Window Into the Future of Live Concerts
Also see, from December 10, 2013: Another Startup Transforming the Music Industry
I will tell these stories, in association with the Pandora story, where relevant. And, given the direction I see the music industry headed, where DIY and semi-DIY platforms replace record labels that have outlived there usefulness, there's plenty of relevancy.
Anyhow, it obviously takes money to tell these stories. So, before I close, a quick note on where the money you pledge will go.
First, for the basics, I really like what Jack Cheng, an author who recently had his project funded on Kickstarter had to say in his description. Read from Where the Funds Will Go at this link, as everything Jack said answers that question with relation to my project.
In addition, I require money to travel, particularly to the Bay Area and elsewhere to meet with Pandora employees, the co-founders (two, Tim Westergren and Will Glaser are located in the SF Bay Area, one, Jon Kraft, who I am already scheduled to meet with at the end of January, is in Los Angeles), early stage Pandora investors, other startup founders and employees, musicians and other music and radio industry figures. They're all imperative to telling the most complete, compelling and rich story possible.
If the funding exceeds the project goal of $25,000 by a considerable amount, I intend, as @ashleyjetjaden indicated, to make the entire experience more interactive. That could include features such as podcasts and/or working with a photographer and/or videographer to bring the book to life with images and video interviews, similar to the ones included in this description (at the links and at the YouTube) with Pandora VP/Playlists and Chief Scientist Eric Bieschke and Pandora co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren.
Ideally, I would love to support local music by launching the book with signings and Q&As as part of concerts featuring indie and unsigned bands at clubs in cities such as LA, San Francisco, New York, Austin, Nashville and elsewhere. But, again, it takes cash to throw that type of party so, if you have ideas or resources to make something of this scale happen, please feel free to contact me.
I will work on my end to make some sort of signing/live show happen, at the very least, in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
My video leaves a lot to be desired and, given some encoding problems it seems to be having with the Kickstarter platform, it might not even show up. If it's not there, I apologize. In any event, I tried to make the description as detailed as possible (without writing the book in it!) and include an abundance of links so you can get a feel for how I write and how I intend to craft this project.
All of this said, this is my labor of love. You will get tireless work from me. Blood, sweat and tears. I won't stop until every word in the definitive book about Pandora is in its proper place.
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk to completing the project (on time) is that I will delay completion because I have yet to relay what I already know and will learn throughout 2014 the way I feel best serves the reader and does the subject matter justice. I don't want one word, line or page -- let alone chapter -- out of place.
That said, as those of you who follow me on TheStreet know, I am a tireless worker. I'm "prolific" in the sense that I am able to organize and manage my time well. As old school journalist might say, I can crank out "the copy." But I do my best to not let quality fall victim to quantity and time to publication.
It's a balancing act I work with everyday at TheStreet. One that I will expand out for the larger project of writing a book and continuing to my work at TheStreet. Work that will, often times, directly and indirectly inform the Pandora story.
As part of creating this Kickstarter campaign, I devised a timeline for working on and completing the book, taking into account my other professional (TheStreet only) and personal obligations.
I've been writing full-time long enough to confidently state I will easily stick to the timeline and publish the completed book by January 2015. If there is a delay (or I complete the project early), I will send out an update along with rationale why. Whether early, on time or a little late, rest assured you will receive my best effort and the most accurate and compelling account of Pandora's story from before it was even Pandora to the company's 2014 iteration as Internet radio's pioneer and leader.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)