We’ve just published another case study! This one on the online music-recommendation sensation Pandora.

We’ve just published another case study! This one on the online music-recommendation sensation Pandora. The story behind Pandora’s success is an inspiring one; they truly would not be where they are today without the loyalty of their fan-base. I don’t know about you, but I personally haven’t heard of too many companies that have been saved by the sheer will of their customers. But I think it should be a prominent goal of any company to inspire that kind of passion. It speaks a lot to the type of service Pandora provides and the value with which it provides it.

In the beginning, Pandora as a company could be called too nice. Those that discovered it in its fledgling state, myself included, marveled that such a fantastic service could be free and without thinking about the long-term implications of it all, milked it for all it was worth. My favorite Pandora stations basically became the soundtrack of my daily life. I guzzled up hours and hours of free streaming. Still do, actually, but now I’m content with my 40-hour-a-month limitation and sporadic ad pop-ups.

I may also make the leap to Pandora One one day, but I actually rarely meet my limit even now, only because I make sure to pause the track every time I step away from my desk. (The guilt I feel when I see that message that accusatorily reminds me that they pay for every song they play is inhuman. Just want to say I’m sorry, Pandora. I was just so sure I’d clicked pause before my lunch break. If the guilt I felt every time it happened wasn’t bad enough, “Hotel California” was on the list of recently played tracks one time and I didn’t know when it would come up again. Man, if I could thumb up that song ten-hundred times, I would.)

Anyway, little did I know at the time, but Pandora was drying up and my incessant listening was contributing to its imminent demise. Sad. I’m not claiming to have likewise played a part in their dramatic rescue, but I wish that I had. Why? Because now I know what I didn’t know then, ignorant, free-music-obsessed jerk that I was.

Now I know that after six years of building up the Music Genome Project, Pandora Radio was finally able to launch with funding from Walden Venture Capital. That $9 million took them all the way to 2008 before crippling royalty fees and a worrying inability to truly capitalize on their “basically free” service almost brought Pandora to its knees. But they made their comeback, restructured their services and slapped an ultra-reasonable price tag on their Pandora One service. Now they’re publically traded and their system is impressive, as well as—I’m sure—constantly adapting and growing.

Am I still a free-music-obsessed jerk? Yes. Would I blame Pandora if they slashed the 40-hour limit to 30, 20, or 15? Nope. Plus, I’d sign up for Pandora One. As it is, however, I’m satisfied, and to everyone that fought to save my favorite website when I didn’t know it was seriously about to go under: Thanks. You’re pretty much a better person than me.

Now back to the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack.

But first, if you haven’t jumped over to the Pandora case study yet, you should also check out Dropbox, ESPN, Ebay, and more. We’ve scoped out a ton of popular websites to try to provide some insight as to how they did it.

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