So, I attended a Pandora meetup last week, Pandora being the internet radio service that’s grown out of the music genome project that studies songs, assigning scores among 400 different “genes” to sort of stamp out what the qualities of a song are. It’s a mechanism for finding recommendations based on what you like, rather than genre expectations or cultural approval. They built it into a radio system where you plug in an artist or song that you like, and then play songs that are qualitatively similar.
A bit (the whole meet up was basically a “town hall” meeting led by Tim Westergren, one of the founders) went toward explain the selection process, which is the sort of gear shifting that interests me. Since the genes are rated, there’s score to a song. So the next song may be the next closest in score. If all but one gene is the same, the different one...ehh...rhythmic vocalizations*, will define the distance. A song with the score of 5 may be followed by one that’s equal except for a 3 in a gene, rather one euqal except with a 9. And there’s weight to the genes as well, so a song 5 apart on vibrato might still be played before another one that is only 2 apart, but on the tempo scale—changes in tempo being much more significant (the most significant, actually). A neat business that means you might hear a lot of Celine Dion (the most thumbed down artist), whatever you might think you like.
Interestedly, “era” is a gene, and means that song selections gravitate toward a 20 year spectrum from the jump off. That’s a little off to me, since it seems like a non-musicology oriented classification to have—maybe it’s used to account for the variance in production values of the years.
I’ve enjoyed the system, and think it’s worth a shot for those who want to sample something close to what they like. I discovered my love of No Doubt and Gwen Stefani—‘cause really, that’s just New Wave isn’t it? Sadly, no Duvall approved “dumb lyrics” +/- system has yet to be implemented.** The site itself may be robust enough to a have a community, for those into that sort of thing, though I wonder how many presences people can maintain. Anyway, Pandora is pretty big. It managed 400,000 faxes in three days, the fasted inundation of Congress ever, after a call to arms regarding recent RIAA royalty shenanigans and internet radio. A fact both impressive and sad (as Westergren noted), since it means the most people get riled about is when you threaten their free music.
Learned other things: its on an value-added advertising business model, random recs is an interesting idea that executes poorly, as is computer listening (Pandora has 50(?) full time trained listeners quantifying songs). Then I dodged a thunderstorm.
Didn’t get the nice looking shirt (for the best, I don’t need more shirts), but got a nice hat, though. You know me and hats.
* I’m making shit up.
** No, Pandora, I do not like Ashlee Simpson. Stop it.