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Pandora, Facing More Music Competition Than Ever, Puts Founder Tim Westergren Back in Charge

Brian McAndrews leaves after 2.5 years.

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Streaming music pioneer Pandora, which has built a big business but whose future still looks quite uncertain, has swapped out CEOs again.

This time, Pandora is bringing back its original boss, founder Tim Westergren.

Westergren replaces Brian McAndrews, who joined the company in September 2013 after a career in the ad industry. McAndrews had replaced Joe Kennedy, who had helped build the company up and took it public in 2011.

Westergren, a former musician who created Pandora as a sort of science project, is taking control of the company when it’s very much in flux.

Pandora’s core product, a free, ad-supported streaming service that gives users limited control over what they hear, remains very popular, with 81 million users.

But it’s facing increasing competition from the likes of Spotify and Apple, and YouTube. And in the last year it has made several moves to diversify its product line by moving into the ticketing business and announcing plans to offer its own subscription business.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Pandora had hired bankers to sell the company. The most logical buyer, according to industry executives I’ve polled, would be satellite radio giant Sirius XM, who they imagined would be interested in Pandora’s big installed base of mobile users; Pandora’s mobile users account for 85 percent of the service’s use.

But we haven’t heard much about the would-be sale since the initial report.

Pandora’s stock, which often lurches around in response to industry news, is down 8 percent this morning.

In 2015, Westergren spoke to Walt Mossberg at our annual Code/Media conference about the company’s insistence on providing free music as the industry moved toward a paid model. Here’s the full interview:

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