Pandora - Revolutionary Music Discovery Tool

February 20th, 2007 | Categories: networks, social media, trends

Pandora logoI had heard a lot of hype and fuss surrounding Pandora, but I hadn’t taken the opportunity to check it out in detail. I had simply browsed the homepage a couple times and absorbed the gist of the system. But a couple weeks ago, a suggestion by a friend to delve further into the service provided me with a whole new appreciation for the system and music…

A typical scenario works like this: I like artist A, but I’ve listened to most of their music. In other words, I want to find new artists with a similar music style. This is epitome of a Pandora user.

Upon visiting the site, you are prompted to type in your favourite artist or song. The system then creates a ’station’ tailored to your music preferences and tastes. Although not perfect, it does a pretty damn good job at discovering new music that you can appreciate.

Pandora was created by the Music Genome Project. Started in early 2000, “a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.”

The founders go on to say:

“Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it’s about what each individual song sounds like.

Over the past 6 years, we’ve carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world.”

In other words, the system gives you a taste of music, similar to the style you currently enjoy. You are able to discover new artists and further expand your listening repertoire. Powerful stuff.

In my case, I created ’stations’ for the following artist: Tiesto, ATB, BT. Note that I am a big techno/trance fan, so these DJs fit the bill nicely. Subsequently, I had created three unique listening experiences, which enabled me to discover new trance DJs and tracks with little or no effort. In addition, I went on to give most of the suggested tracks a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ dependent on whether I enjoyed the tune. This paved the way for deeper system analysis and eliminated undesired tracks from being replayed on my station.

This business model is completely new to me, but very refreshing. It ressembles nothing I have seen before… which leads me to the financial model. Pandora pays royalties to all artists whose music gets played, albeit probably not a large sum though. This is for a specific reason and caveats are abound. For one, stations are assorted and random, meaning there is no order to the tracks being played (so you never know what comes next). Secondly, you cannot play a certain track or artist on demand. You can tailor a station to their music type and they will eventually show up, but specific requests are prohibited. Finally, you are only allowed to skip 6 tracks during the course of an hour. All of these nit-picky details allow the company the ability to stream the top artists’ music at a fraction of the cost without being sued.

Pandora achieves revenues by placing ads beside the player. There is a subscription service at a cost of $36/year or $12/3 months. This will eliminate the ads and support additional features. Furthermore, the company also generates revenues via affiliate music sales through Amazon and iTunes.

Check the Pandora FAQ for the answers to the myriad of questions you may still be asking (I know I did not answer them all). And as the system and model is so unique, I found myself combing the FAQ for answers as well.

Last but not least, the interface is so incredibly simple to use. All in all, the simple design masks the complexity of the system. I think that’s the best way to put it.

One Comment

  1. Jovan Says:

    Aidan, great post. To be frank, I absolutely hate the radio. As far as Internet radio goes, I hate it just as much, because it is basically just regular radio with more stations to choose from. However, I love music more than most people I know, and I am always excited to find new and amazing bands.

    So when I heard about Pandora from a friend I was understandably skeptical. I did give it a chance though, and I couldn’t believe what I found. I think it is so amazing. There are several sites doing similar things like and, but despite their flashy interfaces, they have nothing on Pandora.

    The reason Pandora stands out from traditional radio and all these other “me too” sites is simple. They play good music. That’s all there is to it. They play an amazingly diverse range of good mainstream music and underground bands.

    I believe in supporting the music industry and not just stealing music off the Internet, and Pandora makes it so easy to legally listen to and purchase music you love.

Leave a Comment