Forget Facebook: Pandora’s CTO wants to embrace the real world

Whenever startups talk about making music social, it’s all about Twitter and Facebook; either to share music with the social web or to get social music recommendations. But when I sat down with Pandora (S P) CTO Tom Conrad this week, I got to hear a decidedly different take on what it means to be social with regards to digital music.
“Social networks don’t matter as much,” Conrad told me. Instead, he wants to focus on the social interactions each of us have every day while listening to music in the same physical space. Sure, Pandora also offers options to share music on Twitter and Facebook, (S FB) but Conrad said that only a small percentage of listeners make use of these features. On the other hand, almost everyone has listened to a Pandora station in the presence of others before, Conrad argued.
How could a service like Pandora take advantage of these real world social interactions? Conrad presented his answer as more of a personal vision, and not something that Pandora is going to roll out any time soon. But even considering that caveat, the vision was a compelling one.
Imagine you listen to your personal Pandora station while driving home in your car, Conrad said. Once you get home, the same station fires up on your connected TV. Except, now your wife is listening as well, and she doesn’t like a certain song. So she takes out her phone and gives it a thumbs down, skipping ahead to the next song.
Of course, you may actually like the song in question. That’s why Pandora should automatically recognize that this vote doesn’t apply to your personal station, but only to a version of your station that you and your wife listen to together. One could think this even further, to the point where the shared taste of a group of friends becomes an instant kind of real-life, based on each participant’s history of listening and rating to music on Pandora.
Taking social back into the real world through the power of music to connect people with each other – that’s a pretty powerful idea. It could also one day become a necessity for Pandora, which now has 71 million active listeners per month, and makes up seven percent of all U.S. radio listening. With that user base, social doesn’t have to be as much about introducing new listeners to Pandora anymore as it is about getting those that already use the service to keep sticking around.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock user MJTH.