Meet new Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews: A Bruno Mars fan with some big-time advertising chops

Brian McAndrews Headshot

Brian McAndrews

Newly-named Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews is well known in technology and media circles as an online advertising whiz.

But, let’s get right to the juicy stuff first: What’s his top Pandora station at the moment?

“Bruno Mars,” he says without hesitation, referring to the pop singer who was just chosen to perform at the Super Bowl.

Told he struck us more as a Sam Cooke kind of guy, McAndrews laughed and noted that he’s actually also an Elton John fan.

“I do have an Elton John channel. I do have some of the older artists, and some of the more contemporary artists,” said the 54-year-old former CEO of aQuantive.

McAndrews, a calm, cool and collected guy known for his measured tones, will keep his home in Seattle. But the self-described “empty nester” does plan to move to the San Francisco Bay Area where Pandora is based.

McAndrews chatted with GeekWire today, and here are more of his remarks.

Why Pandora? “I think it is a very exciting company. I am passionate about the entertainment and music space, and I’m a customer of Pandora and love the product. I love the idea for working for a leader in the space, and literally doing things that have never been done before, charting new paths and innovating.”

pandora-appWhat sort of new things are you planning to do as CEO? “What’s exciting about it is that it is on a great path. And I am happy to come in and try to keep it on the great path, and accelerate the growth. Like I said, it is a leader in the space. I think we can continue to innovate with the product and continue to expand our advertising footprint, sales footprint and expand our advertising ability into mobile as well as on the Web. The first order of business, is to continue to do what we are doing, only more of it. And continue to improve and execute well. Over time, figure out what is happening in the landscape … and are there ways to expand the product offering either product wise or geographically.”

Do you have a music label or radio background? “I don’t have a specific radio or music label background. What I do have here are people who are experts in this, and have certainly learned through being part of it. I share Pandora’s longstanding belief that musicians must be fairly compensated for their art. But … the existing system of laws (related to paying artists) was created piecemeal over several decades and does not serve anyone well. It is clear that broad licensing reform is needed to ensure a vibrant and growing music community. Pandora wants to take a leadership role in making that happen.”

Will you shake up the business model at Pandora? “There are certainly opportunities in the advertising space as mobile continues to develop, and there continue to be opportunities on the desktop and the Web as well. Mobile continues to evolve, and Pandora has taken a leadership role there, and has hired a number sales people across the country, making advertising not just a national offering for Pandora, but also local. There continues to be a lot of opportunity and upside there.”

What about direct music sale purchases? More of that on the horizon? “It’s day one, so I am not sure if that is something that makes sense in the future. Currently, people can, through Pandora make purchases of music they like, if they are listening to something. Right now, the model we have is working very well. There may be ways to expand it down the road, but I don’t see anything dramatic in the near future.”

Why did you want to run a public company again? Why did you want to leave the VC world? “What I loved about being part of Madrona — it is a great firm and a great group of people. And I love working with entrepreneurs, and learning about what is going on in the ecosystem, and then working with young CEOs and trying to bring some of my operating experience to bear. But I always knew in the back of my mind somewhere from an operating standpoint that I got really excited about I was ready to jump back in. I was not actively looking, but when I read that Joe Kennedy here was retiring, I said to myself: ‘I hope I get that call.’ And I did. And pursued it and basically, my initial instincts of excitement just got confirmed through the process.”

Why did you like the Pandora business? “I got excited … because look how far they’ve come: Over $600 million in revenue this year projected. That is phenomenal and growing at a rapid rate. I just saw a lot more running room.”