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Go Ahead. Open Pandora.com’s (Juke) Box

14 February 2006

Unlike a traditional radio station where a DJ determines what is played, on Pandora.com your input is paramount in determining what you hear. When you go to the site, you enter the names of bands and songs that you like. By feeding the site more information, it aims to make better informed decisions about the kind of music you want to hear.

How does Pandora.com do that? In the company’s own words:

For almost six years now, we have been hard at work on the Music Genome Project. It’s the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Together our team of thirty musician-analysts have been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song. It takes 20-30 minutes per song to capture all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound—melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics… and more—close to 400 attributes!

I registered for free, which subjects you to visual ads but they do not interrupt the seamless flow of songs. Another option allows you to pay to skip the ads. Then I input: THE DAMNED, LOVE, THE STRANGLERS, CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, BUZZCOCKS, CATHERINE WHEEL, BAD RELIGION, STIFF LITTLE FINGERS, THE REPLACEMENTS, and NAKED RAYGUN.

To make the system even more intelligent for every tune played you can click “I really like this song. Play more like it.” You can also click “I don’t like this song. It’s not what this station should play.” And you have the option of doing nothing. Regardless, the site keeps playing songs as long as you are logged in. (I gave feedback on almost all the songs I heard.)

So based on the bands I entered, what did Pandora.com serve up? Here are 20 of the first songs played:

The Stranglers “Peaches”
Love “Alone Again Or”
Stiff Little Fingers “The Only One”
Naked Raygun “Home of the Brave”
THE FACES “Whatcha Gonna Do About it?”
HUNGER! “Colors”
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM “Your Parades”
TOM PETTY “Breakdown”
BLUR “Stereotypes”
The Stranglers “Something Better Change”
BILLY SQUIER “Everybody Wants You”
KHMER ROUGE “Perspective”
T-REX “Tame My Tiger”
THE MUSIC “The People”
Buzzcocks “Isolation”
THE ADORED “Chemistry”
AUTOPILOT OFF “Clockwork”
FALLOUT BOY “Grenade Jumper”
THE RAMONES “Outsider”
Naked Raygun “Ghetto Mechanic”

Of the 20 songs, seven were by bands that I entered. So basically two of every three songs were by bands that I had not chosen. I found that ratio of familiar to unfamiliar music to work well.

Among the songs I hadn’t heard, I really liked “Colors” by Hunger! and The Circulatory System’s “Your Parades.”

On each song you can click “Why did you play this song?” In the case of “Colors” Pandora.com said: “Based on what you have told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features a subtle use of vocal harmony, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, a vocal-centric aesthetic, extensive vamping and minor key tonality.”

Each song also directly link to iTunes where you can buy the song and to Amazon.com where you can buy the album on which the song appears.

On the downside Tom Petty and Billy Squier appeared but I quickly vanquished them by clicking “I don’t like this song. It’s not what this station should play.”

Although I only listed 20 songs above I monitored about 50 songs and found that the selection seemed to improve over time and it played more music by bands I did not enter.

Other artists played include: THE UNDERTONES, ALL, JOHN CALE, JOE COCKER, WIRE, Catherine Wheel, SHAM 69, EATER, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, ULTRAVOX, and THE BEATLES.

 

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