Pandora's "Music Genome Project" explores the cold hard facts of how we interact with music


#1

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#2

Years ago, Pandora let its listeners' use of the thumbs-up button drive what what they'd hear. But as more of its usage has shifted to mobile devices, it's found that people "thumbs-up" less but hit the thumbs-down and skip buttons as much as ever.

Interesting observation. I've had a 50+gb collection since the napster days, and have had 3-4 iterations of ipods/iphones since the 3g. I've used it nearly every single day and have never, ever, wanted to use their star-system. I've never trusted their algorithms to be much more sophisticated than increasing the frequency that song would repeat.


#3

I wish there were a way to persuade Pandora to eschew repetition. Even though my selection of 100 stations (really Pandora? only 100?) is pretty broad, I end up hearing the same tracks over and over. The only way around this appears to require me to manually select "I'm tired of this track", over and over. Pandora should offer a mode where it automatically punches the "I'm tired of this track" button for every track. I'd also appreciate having a raw, all-inclusive shuffle of everything in the Pandora library, with no weighting at all. Or a feature that picks a random point in music genome space, and creates a playlist of songs that share a half-dozen or so characteristics.


#4

college radio can be heard nowhere near me

If you can listen to Pandora, you can listen to online streaming feeds from distant college radio stations.

http://wprb.com/


#5

I rarely listen to Pandora anymore, if I'm streaming it's Radio Paradise.

http://www.radioparadise.com/

And yes many many college radio stations are online. There has been a lot of work over the last few years to keep copyright fees for college radio at a reasonable level. Before streaming services were widespread, college radio stations received preferred copyright royalties (low) as long as they were limited to their FCC licensed broadcast area, which was always local - streaming changed all that. Over the last few years- with a LOT of advocacy from Pandora - royalty fees for non-profits were maintained at reasonable levels. So if you haven't searched for your favorite college radio station in a while, check again and you will probably find them now that the royalty issue has been resolved.

P.S. I still subscribe to Pandora because I think the research they are doing is important. I think many people don't realize that the streaming service came out of the research they were already doing on the music genome, at core they are a research organization - not an entertainment service.


#6

I thought last.fm was much better on the depth and variety, but they just switched to all youtube for their music, and there just isn't much point any more. I'd have thought having machines score things would work better than human (you can add music much more cheaply), but not well enough, or their corporate overlords (CBS?) screwed things up.


#7

Mix tapes are dead?! Not in my world. We don't actually use cassettes, but trading meticulously crafted playlists is a living thing?


#8

Building a themed Pandora station is an exercise in frustration. For an example creating a James Bond themed station by picking your favorite Bond themes will have you endlessly thumbing down random soundtrack theme music, 1960s easy listening junk, and seemingly even tracks that are liked on your other stations.

I have come to believe that the music genome via thumbs-up/down is an entirely broken way to discover music, but what alternatives are there? It could help to have some control over the genome selectors, such as limiting the BPM, number of instruments played, or toggling vocals.

Due to the forced repetition on Pandora, I’ve had to thumb-down some artists I like. For one channel it presented me with the 80s pop every time I turned it on, and not the repertoire of those artists, just the same few songs you have to hear on every other commercial radio station.

Attention Pandora: I have strong evidence the Eurythmics, Devo, and others produced more than one track!


#9

Here's an example oft not too hard to find college radio stations: http://pigeonsandplanes.com/2013/03/the-25-best-college-radio-stations/

kexp, kcrw, citr and wfmu are all good as well.

I'm happy to switch between these over using Pandora any time.


#10

I love that Australia has a strong and healthy community radio scene. If anyone is looking for a plethora of good music with generally intelligent and thoughtful presenters, and a really wide variety of genres and programs it is hard to pass up:
http://pbsfm.org.au/ or http://www.rrr.org.au/ from Melbourne
http://fbiradio.com/ in Sydney or
http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/ in Brisbane

All of which are free to stream online, and some of which podcast individual programs so you can listen to your favourite shows whenever you please. I'm sure there are other good stations in other cities, but these are the ones I've had more contact with. Entirely not-for-profit, run mainly by volunteers and supported by local businesses and kept mainly on the air by down to earth memberships.

I've been listening to Pandora a little bit lately, especially when I'm in the mood for a genre not currently playing on PBS or RRR; but it is always a short period until I'm bored with what is playing. I could never quite work out why exactly before, but the description about BPM being a major factor in the algorithm explains it perfectly. That and the lack of surprises. I essentially never hear anything that I haven't heard before that actually excites me, sure I hear tracks I haven't heard before, but they're never far enough from the tree of whatever "station" I've selected to be genuinely interesting.


#11

Yup, CBS screwed up. It makes me deeply sad that last.fm has effectively dropped it's streaming and all the streaming APIs. As with Winamp and AOL, I kind of wish CBS would just sell it on as they clearly don't know what to do with it. Then there's Google Play Music that's equally broken.

There's room in the market again for some kind of combination of Discogs, last.fm, pandora, turntable.fm, myspace but it's almost as though the record biz doesn't want that to happen.


#12

My last.fm subscription came up for renewal about a week after they cheerfully told me that I couldn't stream music from them anymore but I could get discounts! On T-shirts! So that's one subscription I don't have to pay for anymore. I think they have a deal with Spotify for streaming now.


#13

i dropped last.fm about 5 years ago when they stopped letting subscribers create tag stations. i had curated some exceptional tag stations and it kind of broke my heart when they no longer worked.


#14

Perhaps I'm the odd one when I don't want surprise in my music selection. That's not to say I don't enjoy different genres of music, but I don't like hard shifts from one selection to another. I listen to a lot of EDM stuff and I find it irritating when Pandora goes from a song that's more jungle to something more ambient and the only correlation I can see is that the bands happen to both be listed in the same genre space (which is fine cause not all songs by all artists are the same).

My music collection is small by most regards, but then again I like individual songs not albums.


#15

Pandora is for finding music that sounds similar to other music. If you feed it a bunch of Bond themes, you're not telling it "play these Bond themes and nothing else," you're telling it "find me music that sounds like this music." It's working as intended.

If you want to make a specific playlist, you can do that yourself with VLC and iTunes/Pirate Bay. Pandora is the wrong tool for the job.


#16

For example: one of the thumbed down tracks on the Bond theme seeded station is The Magnificent Seven theme song. It may have some similar music genome qualities, but could never be mistaken for having the feeling of a Bond song.

I agree, if one wanted a specific playlist, Pandora is the wrong tool. But it seems that if one wanted a specific theme, Pandora is also the wrong tool.


#17

I think that music is so subjective, that you'll never please the hardcore listeners. Some of the artists that I adore were also the ones that I thought "meh" when I first heard them. When I want new music I go to iTunes and browse.

What does work well for user generated stations on Pandora, etc. are things like comedy and spoken word.


#18

Mixtapes no more, college radio not at hand? Plenty of alternatives: check out Live365 for 1000s of free stations, all programmed by highly invested humans! I'm partial to their Louche Life: bit.ly/1rLecK2   


#19

And by “their,” you mean “your.” ; D


#20

I still don't get this whole music as a service thing. Why would I trust a service that decides for me what I may like? I have no idea how you source music. I don't know if you're being paid to favor one megacorp over another. And what happens when someone refuses to provide music to you? Any one of these can have a major impact on what I hear and not provide the "service" I am paying for. I will stick to buying records, where I have control over what I find and listen to. Plus I have full control over how it is stored on my computer. No questionable MP3s that sound like a bad phone call if I decide to stream my music (using Rouge Amoeba Software) to me.