Skip to main content

Interview: Pandora Australia's MD Jane Huxley

Pandora Australia's Jane Huxley
Running Pandora Australia with an iPad and two pairs of shoes
Audio player loading…

It was a relatively quiet launch last December when Pandora finally crossed the Pacific and opened up shop in Australia.

Now, three months later, as Pandora is celebrating the launch of its Windows Phone application around the world, TechRadar took the opportunity to chat with Pandora Australia Managing Director Jane Huxley to discuss the new app, the first few months and what we can expect in the future.

How's everything going in Australia?

Jane Huxley: Everything is going incredibly well. It's a market that is behaving very very similarly to the US, which is kind of what you would expect.

The take up however has been faster than what it was in the US. It should be - we're on version four of a very good product, so it should be tracking a little bit faster than where the US was, but it is behaving in a very similar way.

It's a very mobile-centric market - over 75% of our listening is on a mobile device here, and that's growing.

And so it's just been really well received, and I've had some great feedback.

On the mobile front, is that what you were expecting?

JH: Yeah, exactly. That's what it's at in the US. It's actually a little bit ahead of that here.

But music itself is incredibly personal; the mobile phone is a very personal device. The Windows Phone in particular makes it even more personal through Live Tiles, so all of those things come together and that's really driving a lot of mobile take up for us.

We'll be heading to about 90 per cent in the next couple of years, so this is very much a mobile business.

The Windows phone partnership - how did it come about and where is it going?

JH: Obviously we've been partnering with a number of manufacturers, and we've brought Pandora to over 1000 devices in fact, working with device manufacturers as well as listeners is a really core part of the way that we get Pandora into the ears of people.

And the Windows 8 Phone itself is an incredibly personal phone. You can pin a station right to that start window.

You can see what's playing, with one tap you can access your most recently played station, your favourite station, it's just a really really nice combination and I think that's what it took to really fire up the partnership between Pandora and Microsoft, and hopefully it's the start of a lot of things that we'll do together.

Pandora Windows phone

Obviously Live Tiles are crucial to Windows Phone, but Android devices have a fair amount of customisation options through widgets and skins. Is there any reason that the Microsoft partnership has managed to achieve more of that personalisation than the other platforms.

JH: I think that is the difference between customisation and personalisation. Customisation is really where you get to decide what it is that you want to access from a particular device.

But the Windows Phone has taken it one step further, in that not only do you get to decide, but you get to see.

They have some great sayings there: "You are what you pin". I love that, because that's equally relevant in music, you know, "you are what you listen to" in music terms.

And being able to see what you're listening to, particularly for Pandora where discovery is such a massive part of our product, being able to see what you're listening to just by glancing at the phone rather than having to go in, undo the screensaver, go to the app and have a look at what's playing. Bbeing able to just glance at the phone to find out what's playing, that's a great experience for Pandora.

When people are listening to Pandora, because 70 per cent of our catalogue is independent music, you'll quite often get served songs that you've never heard before.

And you're listening along and you'll think "God, I love that song, what is that?" and you'll have a look at the phone and you'll think "Oh, I've never heard of them wow, that's a band I've never heard of."

And being able to do that at a glance with a Windows Phone is just a really nice way to use Pandora.

And as part of the deal, Microsoft will be offering the paid service for free for 12 months?

JH: No, it's ad-free until the end of 2013 is actually what's going on, and that is brought to you by Microsoft. They've done that as a value ad for the Windows Phone community.

And that's a great thing for us to be able to provide an ad-free Pandora to our listeners or to the users of the WIndows Phone, and it's a key part of our partnership and it's a nice value-add.

Do you see the partnership as a branding exercise, or as natural expansion?

JH: It's more of a natural expansion to us. Our goal is to make Pandora ubiquitous. If there are devices that connect over Wi-Fi to the internet, whether it be a refrigerator or a jacuzzi or a car or a phone or a set-top box, wherever devices are that people want to listen to music, we want Pandora to be on that device.

And the stuff that Windows does is pretty ubiquitous across the day. From PCs to mobile devices to stuff in the home, and that's a great partnership for us to have, so it's part of a natural set of synergies rather than a branding exercise.

So with MS fighting for third in the mobile marketplace, from their perspective do you see the deeper Pandora integration being used as a recruitment tool to the Windows Phone platform?

JH: I'm not really sure about a recruitment tool. What we've seen in phones in particular is that the real differentiator has been the app stores, what kind of content people could access through the phone.

And I think this is where Apple did a really good job vey early on in providing a lot of choice and a great, easy to access set of content for the phones, and of course we then saw Google Play do the same thing.

Microsoft is now at over 130,000 apps in their store, and particularly from a US perspective, Pandora is very much a "jewel in the crown" app to have, and I think that's what was important to Microsoft.

One in three people with a smartphone in the US have accessed Pandora in the last 30 days. So for Microsoft to have a partnership with Pandora I think is an incredibly natural fit in the US and by natural extension here in Australia and New Zealand.

But vice versa as well. People who use the Microsoft ecosystem will likely drift towards the Windows Phone over time, so it's kind of a win-win.

Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.