Friday, February 06, 2009

Pandora.... Not your Grandfather's Radio

Yesterday, based upon a tip from a friend of my wife's I discovered a new website called Pandora. Click on the title above for a link. Pandora lets you program your computer to become a radio that plays stations that only play songs from artist you like. No this is not like other sites where you have a choice of "classical" or "Oldies, etc. You put in the name of your favorites artist and that station only plays music from that artist or similar artists. For example, I put in "Simon & Garfunkel" and the station will only play Simon and Garfunkel type music. You will get Peter Paul and Mary, John Denver, etc. I put in "Bob Dylan" and was given a choice of Bob Dylan with The Band, Early Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan Blues etc. What's fun, is it will play artists and or songs you never heard of that are like for example Simon & Garfunkel. I heard the Kingston Trio sing "Shenandoah" which I had never heard before and I am fairly knowledgeable about the Kingston Trio. It was a wonderful version of the song. While playing a song you can get additional information about the artist or the album. The album cover is also displayed.This is what Wikipedia says about the site:

Pandora is an automated music recommendation and Internet radio service created by the Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on approval or disapproval — which Pandora takes into account for future selections.

While listening, users are offered the ability to buy the songs or albums at Amazon MP3, (for CDs), or the iTunes Store. Over 400 different musical attributes (see List of Music Genome Project attributes) are considered when selecting the next song. These 400 attributes are combined into larger groups called focus traits. There are 2,000 focus traits. Examples of these are rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies and displayed instrumental proficiency.....

Choosing one artist results in all that artist's catalogued styles being used as a starting point, which may include those which may not be considered representative. Selecting representative tracks by the artist may give results closer to what was intended.

Each track played can be responded to in four ways:

Thumbs up - Play more like this.
No response - No change in preference.
Thumbs down - Do not play this track again, play fewer that are similar. Also skips if any skips are left.
A second negative response to the same artist will ban that artist from the selected playlist unless that artist or at least one of their songs has been manually added to the playlist or has received at least one positive vote.
In addition, a menu is provided with the choices: Don't play this song for a month, Why was this song selected?, Move song to another station, Bookmark, and Buy.....

LimitationsThe content licensing imposes a number of restrictions:

Only six skips per hour are allowed, including those resulting from a thumbs down response. Previously, if at least two music stations had been created, switching from the current playing station to a different one and back allowed skipping past the built-in limitation. However, this has been changed so that when the user switches back, the station will still be playing the same song. However, one can still change the song through refreshing the player (provided it is not in mini mode, though some web browsers such as Firefox will provide a URL bar which can be used for refreshing the player). Additionally, the songs continue playing regardless of whether the station is being listened to. If one waits long enough before returning to that station, the song will have played entirely and will move to the next song.
Play of a single artist is limited. Pandora provides similar music, not a play-on-demand service.

The radio pictured above is a console radio like my parents had when I was a little kid. I can remember being barly able to reach the knobs. I remember listing to part of the 1952 Republican Convention on such a radio along with radio programs like "The Shadow" in the days before we had TV.
“Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows.”