Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pandora's Musical Box

My name is Timmy Meyers. I have a problem.

I am completely involved in a desperate and uncontrollable love affair with Pandora. I'm not completely sure what her feelings are for me, but given her interest in my likes & dislikes and her genuine goal of pleasing me to no end, I'd say some sort of holy bond seems likely for the future.

She even apologizes when she makes a mistake, and when I tell her that she couldn't possibly be more wrong, she promises to never make that particular mistake again. She's not perfect - by any means - but she's so much better than the other proverbial fish in the sea.

At any rate, let me explain what Pandora is. Pandora is a web service that allows you to create your own personal, streaming music stations that play music based on your particular music tastes.

And you think "Yea, we've seen this all before. Amazon and iTunes have been doing this for years."

But no. No you have not. No they have not.

Recommendation engines such as the ones on retail sites are inherently flawed due to their reliance on popularity. You will only be recommended something if there exists an interesection of tastes based on your past buying purchases and those of other patrons. There-in lies the problem; music has to sell in order to be recommended.

Pandora is different; she is based on something known as the Music Genome Project. The folks at the MGP describe themselves thusly:

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."

So this is how it unfolds. You go to Pandora to enlist her unique services, and you put in a Song Title or an Artist Name. My beloved will create a streaming playlist, a "radio station" if you will, of songs with similar musical qualities to the song or artist you entered. You can enter as much or as little information as you would like for a station. If a song comes on that you don't really like, tell Pandora and she will remember it and adjust your station accordingly. The reverse is also true.

It is through this method that you may discover new and exciting music that you would otherwise never have heard of because big record labels may, in fact, be the incarnate, worldy form of the anti-Christ -- if, of course, you believe in that sort of thing. (I wonder, what exactly is the opposite of Spaghetti?)

If you register with Pandora, she'll remember info for you of up to 100 stations, and you can log in from any computer anywhere. Oh, did I mention that her Flash-y interface is OS and web-browser agnostic.

So, give her a shot. Unlike fleeting relationships where its really hot and heavy at the start, its going to take a little bit to get her where you want her. She's bound to make some mistakes, but she will learn from them. You will see the potential. With a little patience, you too can build a relationship that will last and likely produce much fruit.


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