Panning for Nuggets #2

I have hit the gold mine of nuggets. My inquiry topic is technically more concerned with Pandora’s business model and advertising, but I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m curious to learn how Pandora works (although I guess this could be part of its business model). I usually can’t find anything, but out of nowhere I discovered everything I wanted to know during this assignment.

Pandora […] grew out of the Music Genome Project, which company founder Tim Westergren began six years ago. […] He became fascinated with the way directors described the music they were looking for, which led to his wondering what made people enjoy certain types of music. He asked himself, “If people haven’t found any music that they love since college, and artists are struggling to find an audience, is there a role for technology to help bridge the gap?”

Pandora has no concept of genre, user connections or ratings. It doesn’t care what other people who like Gomez also like. When you create a radio station on Pandora, it uses a pretty radical approach to delivering your personalized selections: Having analyzed the musical structures present in the songs you like, it plays other songs that possess similar musical traits.

These 2 nuggets are from different sources, but I want to describe the meaningfulness of the passages together. I discovered that the technology behind Pandora is known as the ‘Music Genome Project.’ Most radio stations, online and traditional, play songs based on popularity or connections. Pandora is the only company in the music business that creates stations/playlists based on songs’ algorithms and melodies. I thought this was neat because when I hear a song for the first time and decide whether I like it or not, I don’t think to myself ‘wow I really enjoyed the ABAC rhythm’ or ‘that song was really breathy so I want to hear more songs that are breathy.’ But it makes sense to have technology that does this, because the things that makes songs popular, or the reason that I like 2 different songs is due to the fact that they have these types of similarities.

The last time I panned for nuggets, I found sources that basically said Pandora’s advertising technology makes us stupid. I like these nuggets because they illustrate a different, more positive, view of the technical side of Pandora. This stuff is smart, and definitely unique. The Music Genome Project is revolutionary in its kind and makes me rethink my previous conclusion that the future of Pandora is not bright. Pandora’s technology could grow to change the music business entirely and really ‘bridge the gap’ between musicians and listeners.

“It’s true that the algorithms mathematically match songs, but the math, all it’s doing is translating what a human being is actually measuring,” says Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora in 2000 and now serves as its Chief Strategy Officer. “You need a human ear to discern.” Pandora’s secret sauce is people. Music lovers.

It’s true that the Music Genome Project is innovative, but I realized that the technology is not what should be accredited. Technology is simply the means that people work to help other people find music. Pandora calls its employees ‘musical analysts’ and they work long and hard to find hundreds of connections between various songs. The future of Pandora, then, is not just the technology changing the business. There will always be a need for people to create stations, the same way that there will always be a need for people to create music. Music will never be just technology, I realized. I don’t think this means that the music industry will fall behind to other things that will be completely taken over by machinery. Instead, I find it comforting to know that there will always be a need for people and we will always have control over this technology.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: