Pandora: Well, I’ll be d*ned

I remember reading about the Music Genome Project a while back. Don’t recall whether I ever wrote anything about it–the effort to classify individual pieces of music along several hundred axes as to how they sound. Chances are, I would have been curious but skeptical. (Well, duh: Walt Crawford would have been curious but skeptical…)

Somebody (?) pointed me to an LA Times article on Pandora, a streaming music website making the Music Genome Project into a real service. The article is enthusiastic, suggesting that this service can nudge you to new music that you’re likely to like but might never have heard of–and that new musicians love the idea, with music companies being cautiously interested.

I don’t listen to music as background much (except in the car), but I had to do some other things in the vicinity of the computer, so I thought I’d give it a try. You start a new “station” by providing Pandora with one or more songs and/or one or more artists you like, and “tune” it by giving a thumb’s up or thumb’s down to individual songs it comes up with. You can define up to a hundred stations, and have a free account (with ads) or a $36/year account (without ads). It’s streaming audio at 128k MP3, and it sounds better than most MP3 streams I’ve heard.

My “station” started with Randy Newman (surprise, surprise), to which I quickly added Tom Paxton and James Taylor. I only listened for about 20 minutes–but damned if it wasn’t hard to move away from the station. Sure, some of the songs were from the artists I chose. But the others were, with one exception, right on the money–and they were all songs and artists I would not have known about.

This isn’t social software: Your radio stations are only influenced by the work of the project itself and your own choices (but you can choose “favorite” stations and email your stations to other people). It might not work at all for you. I still don’t see that I’m going to spend a bunch of time listening at my PC. But, well, so far, I’m impressed.

Hmm. Wonder what Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder, and Boz Scaggs might yield… Some day, when I have some time free…

Quick update, now that I’ve installed my snazzy new MS Wireless Natural Pro keyboard & optical mouse…finally, there’s a wireless MS Natural keyboard, and the wireless mouse is even better than my old Logitech wired optical…: So that’s my second Pandora station, Mitchell Scaggs Cooder. Right now it’s playing “Ooh Baby” by Gilbert O’Sullivan–and I think I can see why. This station tests my own likes, since I only like most of Joni Mitchell, maybe 1/3 of Boz Scaggs, and some unknown but large fraction of Ry Cooder. Hmm. “Back on the Road,” Earth Wind & Fire. Makes sense, and I’d never make that connection. I see how people find Pandora a trifle addicting…

One Response to “Pandora: Well, I’ll be d*ned”

  1. Tom Keays says:

    Not quite the Music Genome Project, but fun. Musical lineages from jazz to rock done up as a tube map of the London Underground.