Steve Ginsberg, VP of Technical Operations at Pandora, is one of several folks who will be speaking at our first-ever Starter Day. If you haven’t already signed up for Starter Day, now’s the time. Seating is limited for this half-day, $50 event (only $10 if you’re a Starter license customer) that features some of the hottest startups talking about how they made it big… or plan to! In the run up to Starter Day, we spoke with Steve to get a feel for the company and his talk.
How did you get started at Pandora?
I had the same experience that many of our listeners have had. A close friend told me about the service and I gave it a try. I was immediately impressed with the connections Pandora made from the music selections that I gave it. When I was contacted about working here, I really wanted to meet the folks who had set it in motion.
How are the Pandora staff generating all that meta data? What kinds of tools did you create to help them do that?
For years, our Music Analysts — all trained, talented musicians — have been listening to every song that is entered in to the Music Genome which serves as the backbone of Pandora. There’s a great article here from the New York Times that covers this in detail.
Our Music Operations team, creates and maintains the tools to enter and track the meta data and of course all the songs, albums and artists on Pandora. This also includes the software to convert CD’s to digital tracks, to acquire purchased digital tracks directly, and to transcode them in to the multiple formats used by different devices that play Pandora.
Pandora uses a different kind of algorithm — a human powered one — than its competitors. How does that scale?
Though the analysts take a good deal of time with each song, we’re able to grow the collection both in terms of depth of the existing categories and also adding new genres as we go. We’ve recently added Celtic and Indian as well as Children’s music to Pandora. Analysts are able to work remotely, even when they’re on tour.
Can you give us a preview of what might be coming next from Pandora?
We’re currently bringing a greatly expanded collection of African music to Pandora. On the tech side, we’re continuing to see exciting additions to the ways users can access their music in the home, on the go and in the car.
Can you give us a preview of your talk at Starter Day?
Pandora started as an idea to improve music discovery through finding elements that make up the music and connecting them in an accessible way. When I first arrived at Pandora, the service was recently launched and very rapidly growing. The team had made a number of good decisions already, but to build on that we had to make choices about what to keep and what to replace. At the same time the company has been making the transition from being a small startup to become the largest Internet radio provider. We’ve had a great deal of fun making sure there were enough servers, load balancers, network pipes, the right architecture, and enough songs to keep our listening experience going strong.
Register now for Starter Day, June 9, San Francisco. Hear six of the hottest startups as they talk about how they made it! Seating is limited.