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A Short Walk with Tim Westergren of Pandora

February 3, 2009

I was at Social Media Club Breakfast the other day to watch Tim Westergren of Pandora give a talk.  Tim was heading over to P&G after the breakfast, and Kevin the host asked me to walk Tim over.  It was a good deal.   Tim has a great vibe.  He stuck me as humble, thoughtful, and fervently committed to his vision.

Side note: He’s also unbelievably good with names.  I watched him meet a bunch of people and he fluently and effortlessly seemed to remember everyone’s name.  I’d never seen anything like it before.  It was God-like (no joke.)  I think taking the effort to remember peoples’ names is a rare quality and is indicative of a person who genuinely believes in the value of individuals and thinks he can learn something from anybody.  That kind of humbleness (in my view) is admirable and attractive.

Tim’s Advice for an 18 year old kid who wants to enter the music biz.

My brother Wes wants to start a record label.   He’s 18 and a freshman in college.  He asked me a couple of weeks ago what I thought about his idea, and I gave him some fairly clueless advice masked at “older brother wisdom.”  When I found myself walking with the guy who–more than anybody else–revolutionized the music industry, I had to ask him about my brother’s dream.  Here’s Tim’s answer:

  1. Find 1 or 2 bands you like
  2. Offer to manage them for free
  3. Do your best; see what happens
  4. Learn and adapt

There ya go.  Tim Westergren has synthesized the key to a music business in 4 steps and 22 words.  You’ve just benefited from his decade of struggle, sacrifice and hard work to get to a boiled down summary.

His advice reminds me of the quote: “A long journey begins with the first step.” Whenever, I’ve talked to entrepreneurs, read their books, or read about them I see this as an ongoing theme in how they do the extraordinary things they do.  They try the crazy stuff that everybody else is too afraid to try.  And, then they have the courage/stupidity/unawareness to keep going even when the enterprise seems  impractical/stupid/doomed.

Of course Tim had a lot more to say about how to enter the music business.  He talked about:

  • Working with bands that are cohesive and not addicted to drugs
  • Working with bands with talent and something to say
  • Using social media tools to promote (facebook, myspace, twitter)
  • Starting out in a non-core city where the competition isn’t so fierce

But the big takeaway from Tim was that you don’t need to over-engineer the start.  You don’t need a 50 page strategic plan.  You just need to find a band, get started, learn, and adapt.  And, what better time to do it than when you are a college student with relatively low responsibility and downside risk.  Go get it Wes!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2009 3:51 am

    Hi Elliott,

    I recently finished Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick”, and I’m finding that I love messages that are simple and reach to the core, which is one of the aspects of sticky messages. It sounds like what Tim said did that in your brief conversation with him.

  2. elliottgarlock permalink*
    February 5, 2009 4:24 am

    Hi Daniel, thanks for the comments. What did you make of Tim? I’ve got Made to Stick on my list. Haven’t started it yet. Do you recommend it? Any other major “takeaways” from the book? Also, checked out your link: “How I got my job.” Interesting. Who is your target audience for that? I recently did a podcast for 10 Good Minutes. You may want to check them out or get in touch with them. Maybe share some content or something.


  3. February 5, 2009 4:31 am

    I, too, was impressed with how humble he comes across. Very casual, yet not too much so.

    Made to Stick will transform the way you communicate. Everyone wants their communication to be effective and memorable. Messages that have a good combo of the following elements will stick: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotion, and Story.

    How I Got My Job is a series where people share their job-hunting success stories. Whether you’re unemployed, under-employed, or simply looking to improve your career situation, you’ll be sure to find something helpful and inspirational from the series. All situations are unique, but there are definitely some common threads and lots of practical advice. I’d love for as many people – especially in this business climate – to find out about this as possible.

    I’ll have to check out 10 Good Minutes; I hadn’t heard of them until now.

    Make it a great day!

  4. February 15, 2009 7:33 pm

    Elliot – So glad your walk was so mutually productive. I know Tim is passionate about music and probably really enjoyed helping out. He is a great guy. Thanks.

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