Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sometimes the political process works

Last Thursday, Tim Westergren from Pandora visited Nashville and held a little town hall meeting before heading out to the clubs to look for new artists. We met upstairs at Bongo After Hours, and that very small space was completely filled -- they figured out how to let us all in, which included seating us on the floor of the stage all around Tim as he talked. It was standing room only -- for him. He was extremely charming; he kind of reminded me of the drummer in That Thing You Do! (only more mature, since that character was in high school.) He is the very definition of down to earth. He talked about what the company's all about, and some of the challenges they've faced, and he talked to us about our experience of using the service. (If you don't know what Pandora is, read this post.)

Tim used to tour with a band himself, and it shows. He is extremely proud of being able to provide good jobs for musicians (who he hires to analyze the music's "genes") and also of the way his service hooks listeners up with music they will like that they wouldn't otherwise have heard. He asked for cds from the crowd (this being Nashville, some audience members represented labels and many were in bands.) That music will be listened to for quality, and analyzed for the genome project if it makes the cut. The breadth and sheer amount of music on Pandora is truly impressive.

Pandora almost had to go off the air this summer, along with every other internet radio station, because a change in the way they pay the artists was poised to go into effect that would be four times the amount of airplay on a regular radio station. I kept reading about this all through the spring and summer, and heard about it on NPR, and then, miraculously, the deadline passed and internet radio is still on the air. What happened was the people cried out! As the deadline loomed, people faxed and called their representatives, jamming up the fax machines and phone lines. Congress decided something was wrong, and the rate change was held up, and a new agreement is now being negotiated.

I have mentioned before that I usually have mixed feelings on most political issues; not this one. Radio in this country is abysmal; now all of a sudden it's not and let's keep it that way! I think small labels love internet radio.

The last time I remember such a wonderful outcome from the political process was when four more weeks of Daylight Savings Time were added. That is the Bush administration's most (only?) positive legacy.


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