Internet Music Guru Touts Technology

Pandora.com founder Tim Westergren spoke to a group of a dozen graduate students in McShain Lounge on Tuesday about what he describes as the musical version of the human genome project.

Westergren, who holds a degree in political science, spent his first post-college years as a struggling musician and eventually became a film composer, a job which forced him to determine what type of music directors were looking for.

“I developed an informal sense of a music genome in my head, of who likes what kind of music,” Westergren said.

In 1999, Westergren launched Pandora.com, a free radio Web site which tailors its music to each individual user’s preferences.

“We wanted to build a recommendation tool, help people find music [and] license it out to other companies,” Westergren said.

“We basically determined a musical taxonomy, with 400 musical attributes applied to each song. Each song has a strand of DNA which represents its musical fingerprint,” Westergren said. “We try to replicate the experience as much as possible of what it’s like to explain to a friend what kind of music you like.”

Pandora adds 15,000 new songs each month and currently has 500,000 songs.

“The way a business like us works is we raise a large enough audience for an advertiser to consider us worthy for advertising dollars,” Westergren said.

ost of the students in attendance were musicians or entrepreneurs interested in the music industry Westergren deals with daily.

Today, Pandora has 120 employees and five offices nationwide and is currently attempting to expand to other devices, including cell phones and cars.

“Our plan is to build the mother of all radio stations. We want to be a global product and create a musicians’ middle class. Nothing is standing in our way aside from the royalty issue.”

– Maximilien Lambertson

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