Traveling in search of a good tune
The musician and founder of Pandora, Tim Westergren, travels to learn about his radio audience.
(Fortune Magazine) -- As a musician, Tim Westergren knows the importance of staying close to the fans. These days his main gigs are with devotees of Pandora, the online radio service that creates playlists around users' favorite songs and boasts over 12 million registrants. In 2006, on a trip to Austin, Westergren, 42, launched Pandora's "meet-ups" with a casual blog post inviting local listeners to a café. Now the town-hall-style meetings are a big part of his job. Though the ad-supported site is still not profitable, its users are key allies in the royalty battle between online radio and the record industry. We caught up with Westergren in Oakland, where Pandora is based.
1. Days on the road - About 100.
2. Ask the locals - When I'm planning a meet-up, my team will e-mail our listeners in the area and ask for their suggestions on venues. That's how I get recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, where to see live music.
3. Trusty bag - My Tumi backpack that I've had for years.
4. First stop - When I'm traveling, especially on a red-eye flight, I'll find a gym in the city I'm flying to where I can buy a day pass. I go there straight from the plane to work out and shower, since often I can't check into my hotel yet anyway.
5. Airtime - I always travel with puzzlers, books that have anagrams and other puzzles. Keeping the brain challenged is important. Right now I have Darren Rigby's "Sit & Solve" series.
6. Top shop - Grimey's in Nashville, an independent record store. There aren't many of these left. It's small, healthy, and vibrant, with very knowledgeable people and tons of records. A fun place to go music shopping.
7. Must-have - Bucky's 40 Blinks eye mask. Most eyeshades push on your eyes, but Bucky uses a lightweight material that makes these comfortable. Great for when you're on a red-eye.
8. Java joint - In Dallas there's a great coffeehouse and music hub called Opening Bell Coffee. The owner is always trying to support local artists.
9. Quirky venue - A New Orleans bar called Checkpoint Charlie's is a place where you can do laundry and listen to live music. It looks like a bar in front, and there's a laundromat in back. I did my laundry there and listened to a bluegrass band during the spin cycle.
10. Music mecca - Denton, Texas, is home to the University of North Texas, which graduates the most professional musicians of any college in the United States. There's an unbelievable music scene in this tiny little town. On any given night, you'll see world-class bands, and they're UNT students out gigging.
11. Local flavor - The thing to do in Baton Rouge is to eat crawfish. It's the local delicacy. You buy crawfish by the bagful at any kind of market, or even from the backs of cars, and eat it with red sauce. Ask for it when you go there.