Listening to New Music on Pandora

I've been hearing some buzz about Pandora.com recently, so when they went live to the public last week, I signed up right away.

Pandora is music-recommendation engine. It's based on the Music Genome Project, which had the goal of

assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.

Pandora is a web front-end for the Music Genome Project that asks you one question: to name an artist that you like. Based on the "genetic makeup" of that artist's music, Pandora then plays music that it thinks you will like. As each song plays, you give it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, and Pandora takes this into account when playing future songs. It's a dead-simple interface, which makes using it an enjoyable experience. Pandora's music recommendation engine works remarkably well, and I've already discovered an interesting artist whose music I've never heard.

Pandora boils music down to its essence:

It's really a solid product, and they offer ten hours of free listening before you have to decide to buy a year's worth of service for $36. Not a bad deal, but I don't think I'm going to throw down just yet. Here's why:

  • The user model is patterned after radio. This means you are forced to listen to song after song thast Pandora chooses for you. The songs are usually good, and you can skip most of the songs you don't like. However, there's no ability to play songs on demand, or even go play a song you've already listened to. I get the sense this is a licensing issue, but media consumption trends are moving towards time-shifted consumption on demand, not away from it. Hopefully this issue can be overcome in the near future--this is the major obstacle for me.
  • It's platform-dependent. You have to be on a computer to listen to it. Generally this isn't a problem, but I would love to listen to Pandora on other platforms (more on this in a bit).
Some things I would like to see:
  • A keyboard hotkey to rate songs thumbs-up or thumbs-down from whatever application is running. For example, if I'm writing a requirements document in Word and a terrible song comes on, I don't want to have to switch to my browser, grab my mouse, and rate the song as a thumbs-down; I want to hit something like CTRL-SHIFT-D.
  • I would love to see integration with a device that can be hooked up to my stereo--like the Squeezebox2 or Roku Soundbridge, perhaps? Sell me an RF-remote with only four buttons: thumbs up, thumbs down, buy from Amazon, and buy from iTunes, and I'd be ecstatic. Press the Amazon button, and the album shows up at my house a couple days later. Press the iTunes button, and the songs appear on my computer mere minutes later. An LED screen on the remote with things like Amazon album rating, song artist and title, etc. would be optional.

You can even engage Pandora's creators on the Pandora blog. If you're into new music, it's a service that's worth keeping an eye on, if not trying out right away.

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Comments (Post | Latest)

1. Tara 'Miss Rogue' Hunt said on Sep 6 2005:

I had the exact same experience with Pandora, but Tom and Tim are listening to the feedback (I bugged them about portable formats, too).

If we could only get around that licensing issue. It's really the music companies that keep holding progress back. Buggers.

;)

2. kareem said on Sep 6 2005:

Buggers indeed!

Just saw the quarterly pricing... Pandora should promo this more. $12 is a lot less to gamble than $36 that improvements will be made. I may subscribe despite my hesitations, just because the service is so good.

k.

About

Hi, I'm Kareem Mayan. I co-founded eduFire, an online video tutoring company.

I've done time at ESPN and FIM.

I advise WorldBlu, helping them build democratic companies.

I moderated a council for Creative Good.

And, I helped bring Barcamp, a technology un-conference, to LA, which is where I live. I am now living and working in cool cities around the world.

More about me.

Opinions stated here are mine alone.

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