Apps, Mobile & SMS

Future to Come: Pandora in Hand, Pandora in Car

image from 50% of radio listening happens in the car. In order for Pandora to be in all the places that their users go, they need to find their way into the car. At CES this week, Pandora announced partnerships with Toyota and BMW that would place them one step closer to musical domination. Having personalized content in the car is going to be a crucial trend in the coming years and Pandora is making sure that it doesn't miss out. At this point, Pandora has over 75 million-plus users and is embedded in over 200 devices, but getting into your dashboard is critical for their path to revolutionizing the traditional radio industry.

A Standard Feature

image from It will be awhile yet before I have a Pandora app in the dashboard of my car. Nonetheless, I appreciate founder Tim Westergren's vision of the future and his willingness to create it. I realize that we're a long way from music apps in cars being a social norm. The idea of entering my car and commanding it to start, defrost windows, and play Pandora station "Frightened Rabbit" is already here.

It's just that none of us is driving a BMW – not all of us anyways. Westergren sees a day when Pandora will be available in every car. It will be a standard feature. That's a scary day for traditional broadcast radio, as many of them, even by that time, won't be prepared to offer that type of user experience. It's just not in their business model. Broadcast radio isn't supposed to be a personalized.

Tim Discovers Pandora

At Pandora's town hall meeting in Grand Forks, ND, Westergren told a story.

He talked about the first time he heard Pandora playing in a car, while driving. Given that driving can be a bit of a mindless experience, Westergren forgot that Pandora was playing. A string of great songs passed by and he commented to his passenger that the DJ was "nailing it" for him, playing the perfect songs.

Perplexed, his passenger told him that there wasn't a DJ. This was Pandora. Westergren had a light bulb moment. He had never had an experience like this before. The whole time he was running his company, he had heard about users hacking their car stereos to play Pandora, but he had never tried it himself.

Westergren grew up in a world where the DJ called the shots and even he – the creator of personalized radio – hadn't quite grasped the power of it. Since, he has concluded that he wants "thumbs up" keys installed in steering wheels. Meet the Pandora car, one where the driver has full-control the road and the music playing.

The Music Car

Sure, there's likely a little of folklore to Westergren's story, but it's fun to tell.

One day, us music industry geeks will have more than a Pandora equipped car. It won't stop there. All of the music apps will be available at our finger tips. Change is going to come. It's just a matter of time now. Well, l also need a newer car too.

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  1. Although I don’t have Pandora playing on any gadgets, contrary to friends who echo the same sense of pleasure about music they enjoy, I have to say one thing about them from a songwriter’s perspective: They are paying royalties to me directly through my digital distribution source. Although it will be many more streams before I can buy a cup of coffee with it – but they are consistent and trackable. So I’d say bravo to more integration into player devices.

  2. I’m not suprised. I always that the streaming services were nothing but Digital Radio. Still, it’s about time.

  3. The biggest impediment to most internet radio broadcasts on mobile devices (connected to the car stereo) is that the service ends up being a paid service – which is contradictory to the fundamental to the idea that radio should be free. I can barely wait for it to become the standard in cars though. Finally, these idiots that run AM/FM pop/rock music radio stations will lose their livelihood. They’ve practically run the music scene to the ground over the last decade and a half. Pandora and other internet radios stations in the car could finally be the signs of a payback.

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