My Two-Week Adventure With Pandora

As it turns out, actually experiencing Pandora was a much more involved endeavor than I had originally anticipated.  I had thought that simply establishing an account and playing with it over a weekend would adequately prepare me to form a cohesive opinion regarding its potential role in my ever-so-musical existence.  Yet, as the second weekiversary of that blog post rolls around, I'm still left uncertain.  While Pandora offers an interesting way of categorizing and sorting music, it feels somewhat incomplete.

The basic principle behind the Music Genome Project is that songs can be described with vast quantities of attributes.  For example, on my Accoustic Piano station, it just pulled up a song that has the following attributes:

Mellow Rock Instrumentation, Accoustic Rhythm Piano, Major Key Tonality, A Vocal-centric Aesthetic & Melodic Songwriting

If I state that I like the song, the software will give preference to other songs that share one or more of those attributes.  Is this a good thing?  Theoretically, yes.  If I like a song with "West Coast Rap Influences," I very well may like other songs with the same influences.  Yet, it is also possible that I liked the original song for two or three other attributes, and that East Coast Rap Influences are just as agreeable to me.



This is an area I feel Pandora is too restrictive.  I can listen to a song and view its attributes, immediately aware of which attributes I like and which I'm indifferent to.  Yet, as far as I know, there is no simple way to directly request songs with certain attribute types.  My Accoustic Piano station still plays songs completely devoid of piano, because it's pulling up other attributes that are found in accoustic piano songs I've said I liked.

"But Brian," you might ask, "isn't Pandora simply helping you expand your horizons?"  The answer is - not really.  There are times when I want to listen to a wide divergence of music, and times when I want nothing but classic progressive rock.  Regardless of the level of diversity I want at any given time, I should have control over the sort of music I'm listening to.  One major benefit I expected to gain from Pandora was an easy way of discovering "other songs that sound like this one."  This process is greatly impeded when the next song to come up focuses on attributes of my original song that have nothing to do with what I liked about it. Don't even get me started on attributes like "great musicianship."  What does that even mean - "this artist makes good music, unlike the rest of the shmucks?"

Another feature I wanted to see but didn't was a tempo/mood preference setting.  There are several technologies and music players that will automatically map songs to points on a Cartesian plane by mood(bright/dark) and tempo(fast/slow).  After selecting the first song, it then plays songs nearby on the Cartesian plane.  When I tried out that sort of system, I found the automatically selected songs seemed to sound much more cohesive together.  That Pandora had no similar sort of system was a letdown.

My final thought is that, while Pandora is an interesting and useful way to listen to music, the software is needlessly restrictive in its methods of selecting preferences and lacks several features that could send it into the stratosphere of usefulness.

1 comment about "My Two-Week Adventure With Pandora".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Scott Curtis from Studeo, November 3, 2008 at 3:42 p.m.

    For someone who is REALLY into new music and actively seeks new artists I haven't really found any service that can provide a list of “You like... you might like...” that is full of artists I haven't heard before.

    Something I think about when I do these music discovery things (like Pandora, Genius, Amazon recommendations or TheFilter) is that maybe recommending songs is too granular. I might find a song I really like by an artist I've never heard but if I don't like much more of that artists catalogue I'm probably not going to care all that much about the recommendation in the first place. And because I actively seek out new music constantly you've got to dig pretty deep to recommend an artist I've never heard of before.

    And the truth is my music tastes run a bit deeper than the average listener but I don't think what I listen to is really that far off the map. Maybe I'm wrong with this but I imagine the people who use these services are people who like their music a little more obscure and interesting and those are the same people who are probably doing the searching on their own anyway so I’m not sure these services are doing that much of a service. At least not until they get much deeper in what they can offer. I’d like to be able to have Pandora recommend me a band like “x” that’s from Salt Lake City or will be touring SLC.

    You may never check it out but I do run a podcast, I'm always looking for new stuff to feature so if you have some recommendations please send them my way.

    Good article!

Next story loading loading..