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What You’ll Find when you open Pandora’s Box? A GREAT lesson in Community Building.

Submitted by on Tuesday, 3 February 20092 Comments

Cincinnati hosted Pandora Founder Tim Westergren who shared with us the inspiring story of Pandora at the Fifth Social Media Breakfast.

Pandora Quick Facts

  • Pandora has 22 million registered users
  • Pandora’s marketing consisted of: Search, Tim hosting TownHalls and great customer service.
  • Pandora has real people who personally respond to every email.
  • The first Town Hall meeting with Tim had 2 people show up. And it was in Manhattan.
  • The average Pandora user tells 8 people about the service.
  • The Pandora iphone app is the #1 application with over 3 million downloads in only 6 months.

“If you build a product that people like and if you treat them well, they’ll do your marketing for you” – Tim Westergren, Founder Pandora

Pandora Case Study – Mobilize Users for a Cause

The most intriguing thing that Tim talked about was a situation where Pandora users kept their business alive.


  • The Copyright Royalty Board (an obscure 3 person panel) made a ruling that would essentially triple the royalties paid by sites like Pandora.
  • The new costs would put Pandora out of business.
  • You can read an interview with Tim that goes into more details.
  • Pandora was small, so lobbying and working the channels were not effective.
  • Pandora was on the verge of having to shut their doors.

What Happened?

  • As a last resort effort, Pandora asked listeners for their help; and asked them to call or fax their Congress representative.
  • Pandora users responded in droves, and actually shut down the fax system in Washington. Over 400,000 faxes were sent in the first 10 days (from my notes but I can’t verify this # anywhere).
  • More people contacted Congress on behalf of Pandora than over the Iraq war.

The Results

  • Congress reacted (apparently they wanted to use their fax machines again) and took up the issue.
  • On September 28 Congress passed the Webcaster Settlement Act, which allowed internet radio sites like Pandora to renegotiate the Royalties.
  • The law was turned around by passionate Pandora listeners.

Key Lessons

  • Treat your users well.
  • Have a great product that people are passionate about.
  • If you care about your users, they’ll care about you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Don’t forget the power of the people.


  • pandora said:

    Hah! Been looking for a specific Pandora jewels Post and ended up here instead. Interesting read!

  • Alfred said:

    More people contacted Congress on behalf of Pandora than over the Iraq war.

    I love Pandora and that’s why I’m here… but that quote is a little disturbing.