Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, August 29, 2005

Create Your Custom Music Station With Pandora And Start Sharecasting

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Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?

"Each friend told us their favorite artists and songs, explored the music we suggested, gave us feedback, and we in turn made new suggestions. Everybody started joking that we were now their personal DJs."

A new service allowing you to create your own radio station, shareable with friends, and made up with as many, custom-created and personalized music-channels as you like has made its public debut in the last few hours.

Accessible only by invitation up until a few hours ago, Pandora has just gone officially public making your search for the perfect radio stream a tangible reality; if you know what you like, Pandora can help you consolidate a full music channel around it, which can be shared and sent over to your best friends.

Photo credit: Gözde Otman

Pandora is a music discovery service designed to help you find and enjoy music that you'll love. It's powered by the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken.

Pandora works by taking your personal music selection (any song or artist you may like to name) and feedback ("I like this", "I don't like this") and use then the information available within the Music Genome Project to create music stations that play songs that are in tune with what you have selected.

"Only the music counts. We don't care how popular the artist is, who's backing them, and we don't care which genre bin they usually belong in. Only the music matters."

I created my first radio station and initially called it: Earth Wind and Fire. I wanted to see how skilled Pandora could be in tailoring a music channel themed after one of the most innovative and characteristic bands of the 70's-80's, popular for some easy disco stuff, but capable of having created a unique jazz-rock-fusion music style, unmatched or equaled so far by any other pop group.

Pandora didn't bulk at my request and it immediately prompted EWF's flagship hymn "That's the way of the world", rapidly followed by cuts from Tyrone Davis, Ashford and Simpson, FourPlay, Kool and Gang, Bob James and more of EWF's own tracks.

Not bad at all. I was surprised by the good quality and musical relevancy of the suggested station tracks proposed by Pandora, and couldn't be more curious to find what the service what was going to propose next. As a matter of fact you can "fast-forward" in the playlist created by Pandora at any time and jump over any number of songs when you feel like.

But for me the greatest feeling was to let my newly created music channel play in the background, while discovering one by one the little nuggest the Genome Music Project engine was pulling out for me. And boy was I happy when the station started playing off some great Brothers Johnson stuff or some of those killer Average White Band pieces.

An integrated rating system also allows you to give thumbs up or to attach a negative rating to anyone song you are really listening to.

When clicking on the actual cover of the album from which the song has been extracted, you can in fact select to give a positive or negative rating to the selection being played. Not only. You can also create a new custom radio channel based on the style and characteristics of that very song, or head off to iTunes or Amazon to buy the individual track (iTunes) or the whole CD (Amazon).


When you provide a direct feedback by using the feature above the Pandora playlist that drives your station is immediately changed to take into account your new preferences and to immediately reflect your more clearly specified musical taste.

Pandora is also "transparent" about the criteria that it uses to select anyone of the songs it is proposing you. By clicking the album cover of the track being played you can also find out what are the key musical traits Pandora assigned to a song and which matched your initial musical fingerprint.

In my case I learned that the music I like is made up of:

  • busy horn section

  • heavy syncopation

  • mixed minor and major tonalities

  • repetitive melodic phrasing

  • focus on recording production

  • and more...

Wow. That is cool. And as a matter of fact it is also right on the mark. I wish I had been assigned in school to identify, discover and list all of those traits myself.

It didn't take very long for Pandora to start suggesting authors and tracks I had never heard before. And were they good! The first one was from a guy named Kevin Toney. Boy, I had never heard of the man before, but does he sound good!


So, with little or no effort I was already placed in my ideal music environment, with the ability to select and choose among different music style I really liked, while being fed new cool stuff matching it that I had never heard of before. The option of buying instantly anyone of the songs played looks like a true plus for the many of us who like to own and safely archive their preferred music collection.

As of now, the Pandora music library contains approximately 300,000 songs from over 10,000 artists. The collection includes all kinds of music genres made exception for classical, latin and world music. The records included come from major record labels, the indies, and individual musicians recording and self-publishing from their basements too.

Independent musicians can submit their tracks to the Music Genome Project.

Among other interesting features offered by the Pandora is the ability to throw in more tracks (or I should say "references") into an existing station you have created, as to enrich, expand or define more precisely the music genre you are really after. To do this you only need to click on "Guide Us > Add More Kinds of Music to This Station" and submit the name of another artist or song you like.

A Pandora "station" can also be easily shared with friends. By using the "Share" feature button it is easy to send your newly created station to any friend and have them tune into your thematic music channel. The great thing is that your friend does not need to be a Pandora subscriber to listen to your station.


As a user you can have up to 100 stations at any one time. Once you go beyond that point the system requires you to delete one of the existing ones.

One other great Pandora feature makes it possible for you to discover other music by exploring the top 20 most-listened-to stations. This looks like something I am going to like as well.


With it you are able not only to select from one of the 20 most popular Pandora stations but you could also search for one of your friends and add one of the stations they created to your own playlist.

It is not possible to stop and rewind tracks being played, as the Pandora music licenses do not allow this service to do so. There is also no direct control for the user to demand that a specific song be played. It is the Pandora system deciding what comes closest to your request in tis archive and to suggest those titles in your custom station playlist.

Pandora is an evolutionary spin-off from the The Music Genome Project, an initiative started four years ago by a group of musicians and music-loving technologists who desired to create the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.

Together they set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. What they ended up with was a huge assembly of music categorized by literally hundreds of newly created musical attributes or "genes". "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."

This is therefore the first truly effective effort to identify, categorize and recommend music based on its most fundamental traits and fundamental components.

The team at the Music Genome Project spent the last five years listening to the songs from over 10,000 different artists while analyzing the musical characteristics of each and every one of them. As you can imagine this job will never be over and in fact it goes on to this day to make sure that all new musical content coming out from both major recording labels and indie garage bands gets to be classified and made accessible to the immense and varied audiences the Internet offers access to.

I personally think this is a "super-cool" service and one that I would recommend without hesitation to anyone, no matter his musical taste, technical competency or type of operating system she runs.

This is a simple, easy-to-use, effective and high-quality music service capable of bringing you the music you really like but you never knew it was out there.

While many new emerging services claim to do the same, Pandora delivers it right now, with elegance, simplicity and wit.

And they are only at the beginning!

Among the promised goodies already in the making is a super-cool "Station History" "Station History" which will allow you to go back and see/rate/buy all of the songs that have played on your stations.

But the greatest testimonial to the goodness of this new service is the Cluetrain spirit that fuels the team behind it, who has no fear or shyness in writing publicly what they are after and why:

"At the end of the day, what we really want to do is to deliver a service that you love, that you can't wait to listen to, that you want to tell your friends about.

The best way for us to get there is have a conversation with you, listen to you when you tell us that we're failing, and to search for solutions.

So, have fun listening and please know that we're listening too."

(Check out the Pandora blog or subscribe to their RSS feed to learn more about their progress in the coming weeks).

Highly recommended.

Pandora is built with the ubiquitous Macromedia Flash technology and works across platforms and all major browsers.

Tobe precise, Pandora works on Windows 2000 and XP with Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox. It also works on the MacOS X 10.3+ with Safari and Firefox. It is also recommended to use a computer with at least a 1Ghz processor and 256M of RAM.

Pandora delivers high quality 128Kbps audio streams.

Please note that in order to comply with music licenses, Pandora must be able to keep track of the music played on your computer. This is achieved by utilizing the "Local storage" function of the Macromedia Flash Player used in the Pandora client tool, and according to Pandora's site, that information will not be used for marketing purposes of any kind.

At Pandora the first ten hours of listening are completely free. The service does not include any kind of advertising or promotional messages. After your initial ten hours of testing you can sign up for a whole year for $ 36 ($3/month) and use Pandora as much as you like.

More info about Pandora right here.

And, by the way, if you want to listen to my very personal Robin Good Funk Jazz music channel, here it is for you:

N.B.: Is Pandora better than the new LastFM?

Let me find out for you.

Readers' Comments    
2006-02-19 12:23:54


yes, i ll see it

posted by Robin Good on Monday, August 29 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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