I ♥ Pandora

Since I started listening to Pandora, a “music discovery tool”, I have been introduced to a lot of new music that I absolutely love. Po’ Girl, Girly Man, and Kate Rusby, are just a few of the artists that I have learned about that I now listen to regularly. The concept of this technology is still a little mysterious to me. It is the “Music Genome Project,” so basically you create “stations” by selecting what music you want to listen to, either by song or by artist, and it will play songs that you might like based on similar qualities. For the most part, this works pretty well.

Occasionally, however, it is way off. With my Stardust station, for instance, I was aiming for a little cheese, a little Sergio Mendez, Chet Baker, Blossom Dearie, and sometimes it will play songs that make my ears bleed. I keep the volume turned down pretty low so as not to disturb my neighbors at the office, but no matter how quiet, one of those songs come on, and I say to myself “What is that annoying sound?” Sure enough, it’s some horrible Michael Bolton or Celine Dion Song. And if anyone catches me while something like that is playing, I feel terribly embarrassed. But I can just simply thumbs down the song, and it won’t play again. I can also ask Pandora why it chose to play that song, and it will say something like

Based on what you’ve told us so far, we are playing this song because it has basic rock structures, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, acoustic rhythm piano, and mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation.

If you like a song, you give it a thumbs up, and the station will base part of its programming on that song. This is cool, too, though I have really screwed up my favorite Girly Man station this way. I was going for mellow folk, and I had it so I loved it, but after a while, I wanted a little more variety. So I added Bon Iver and Belle and Sebastian. Big mistake. It started playing Nirvana and rockous Jeff Buckley tunes, which I love, too, but not while I’m at the office. There I’m going for Jolie Holland and Madeleine Peyroux. I’ve removed some of the song “seeds,” but it hasn’t been the same again.

But in all honesty, I must say that these little hiccups are entertaining, albeit embarrassing.

The social networking aspect of Pandora certainly has potential, and I don’t think I’ve explored it enough. I just discovered the Pandora Twitter feed, which I think will introduce me to other listeners doing interesting things.

I know there are some other music listening services out there. I tried LastFM, and it didn’t really work for me. It is the same idea, giving you music based on other music you like, and it was way off most of the time. I missed Pandora, so I switched back.

I can’t help myself, either. Of course I’m going to support a company based in my beloved Oakland.

2 thoughts on “I ♥ Pandora

  1. Sorry we embarrassed you at work, Sarah! 😉 Thanks for listening…

    There are a number variables that come into play when Pandora is selecting the next song to play on your station: the characteristics of the artist you entered as the station seed, the type of feedback you’ve given on the songs (thumbs up or thumbs down), and any additional artists/songs you’ve added to the station. Pandora lumps all this together and tries to determine what the best musical match is based on our musical analysis.

    Sometimes stations do take a little bit of time to “train” to your tastes… Here’s several things to try that might improve your stations:

    – Entering a song to create a station is often better than entering an artist. This is because sometimes artists have broad repertoires. This can lead to some eclectic results.

    – Enter more than one artist/song into the station. This will add more appropriate songs to the playlist.

    – To ban an artist from a station, just give two songs by that artist thumbs downs. Keep in mind, this is station-specific; it will only affect the station you’re currently listening to.

    – If you’re sick of a song, but don’t want to ban it from the station, you can always just click on ‘Guide Us’ and put the song “to sleep” for a month.

    – Consider only giving a thumbs up to a song when you like (almost) every aspect of a song, because each thumbs up will add more songs to your station, perhaps in a range that is wider than you had hoped.

    – Look here (http://blog.pandora.com/faq/index.html#88) for more info on creating and tuning Pandora stations.

    I hope all that helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

    Cheers, Lucia


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s