Last night, hundreds of Atlanta jobseekers mingled with executives, engineers and recruiters that flew across the country from Oakland, California to meet them. These visitors, all employees of music streaming platform Pandora, listened to a local DJ and chatted with the crowd of talent before heading into a series of talks from company executives describing the technology, culture and future goals of Pandora.
“If you want to build things that touch people at scale and that touch their lives, this is the place,” said Pandora’s Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips in his opening talk.
The event was Pandora’s first real coming out to the Atlanta technology community. After an announcement in January that the music discovery platform would be heavily investing in their Atlanta office as a product and engineering center, they have opened up dozens of jobs in technology, HR, legal and sales.
The office will swell from its current 45 to about 300 employees over the next three years, according to Gerald Stover, head of talent acquisition in Atlanta, at least doubling by the end of this year. This growth will make the Atlanta office one of the company’s largest, on par with New York City.
Located in West Midtown, the Pandora office is decorated with famous Georgia musicians; its conference rooms are named after Atlanta concert venues.
The location, with its close proximity to nearby universities Georgia Tech, Georgia State, SCAD and more, is also key to Pandora’s talent acquisition strategy.
Stover says that their number-one focus in hiring is tapping into a diverse pool. Pandora made a public commitment to increase the percentage of its employees of color to 45 percent by 2020, see gender, racial and ethnic promotion parity by the same year and “reflect the diversity of our audience, musicians, and local communities across our business in our brand collateral, music partnerships, and live events.”
Stover says that a music background or passion for music is also a trait encouraged in employees.
“Pandora has a saying we share with every candidate we talk to: we want you to bring your whole self to work,” Stover says. “What that means to us is, we’re not going to try to put you in a box. We have a number of employees that are artists. They play in garage bands or in bars and even at our own company events, and we give them a platform to showcase what they’re doing.”
Another trait he’s looking for in future employees? A propensity towards collaboration.
“The one thing that Pandora always talks about is that, separately we can solve a lot, but together we can solve much, much more,” says Stover.
He shares that that attitude will extend towards their interaction with the community, as well. Pandora doesn’t intend to build their Atlanta operations in isolation. According to company representatives across the board, the strong music scene in Atlanta was certainly a draw. The New York Times-labeled “hip-hop center of gravity” employs roughly 20,000 individuals across the state and generates an economic impact of over $3 billion.
“We’re excited because this is a hardcore music city,” said Phillips at the introductory event. “We want to contribute to that.”
Stover has already started forging partnerships and reaching out to the local startup and technology community. Though still in early stages, the music technology scene in Atlanta has begun to take root, driven by the state’s robust digital entertainment industry, events like the A3C Conference and a number of emerging startups.
“Like Pandora, Atlanta sits at the nexus of music and technology,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a statement. “We are a premier destination for some of the world’s most talented musical artists and producers, as well as tech talent. I trust this combination will be beneficial to Pandora as it stays at the forefront of music technology and am pleased to welcome many new Pandora employees to Atlanta.”
The company may be able to capitalize on Atlanta’s existing tech infrastructure in other verticals as well. With the acquisition last month of a digital audio advertising platform for $145 million, Pandora is investing heavily in adtech. Audio ad revenue generated over $1 billion in 2016 according to AdAge, and is set to continue growing with the rise of smart speakers and voice-powered search.
Phillips emphasized the importance of advertising to Pandora’s future — in contrast with platforms that focus on converting users to paid subscriptions, Pandora’s user base is still mostly listening for free. Out of approximately $1.5 billion total revenue generated last year, about $1 billion of that was from advertising.
As these tools continue to be developed, Atlanta’s established history in marketing and advertising technology position the city to provide talent and resources for such products.
“Atlanta places Pandora at the ideal intersection of culture, technology and a diverse workforce,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Georgia has been long known for its robust entertainment and technology sectors, and we look forward to welcoming a company that is invested in both the entertainment and technology world.”