Patrolling the Longhorn precinct for the latest Windows Vista beta news, commentary, and technical info...
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Pandora: The ONLY way to easily discover great music
I've just started to preview a new online music service called Pandora, and not one hour after I started I'm already hooked! The Pandora service allows you to generate customized streaming radio stations by simply supplying it with one or more names of artists or songs you enjoy. Yes, there are many services, such as Rhapsody Radio, that attempt to provide similar functionality. But Pandora works very, very differently. Let me explain.

Most other music discovery methods work by comparing artists or songs you select with other users' music libraries. The assumption is that if you and I both like one artist, I'll probably be interested in the other music that you like too, and vice versa. While that method can generate some basic recommendations, there are two problems with it. For one, two people may share an interest in an artist from one genre, but have completely different tastes regarding other styles of music that may appear in one or the other user's library. Secondly, few artists nowadays perform within cleanly defined genres. Even on a single album, many listeners will like a few songs but couldn't care less about the others. That fact is probably a big reason why digital music stores, like Napster 2.0 and Rhapsody, where shoppers can pick and choose single tracks for 99 cents are becoming so popular.

However, such online stores still force users to browse by artist or album, which I've just explained is not the best way to find related music. Here's where Pandora comes in. Pandora is built upon the work of the Music Genome Project, a mammoth endeavor to analyze and catalog the individual traits of as many songs as possible. The traits determine the beat, arrangement depth, acoustics, and more. For example, a song Pandora just played for me on one of my stations was chosen because it features ambient soundscapes, electronica roots, middle eastern influences, acoustic hat, and use of organs, traits which Pandora determined (very accurately, in fact) to be in alignment with my musical tastes.

The great thing about Pandora is that you don't have to think about all this behind-the-scenes stuff. Just tell it about a couple things you like, and periodically give it feedback about the songs that it plays, and it keeps getting better. Already I'm very impressed with how many consecutive songs it has played that I love, but have never heard or heard of before.

If you're interested at all in an easy way of finding great music (according to your definition), just request an invitation to the free closed preview of Pandora. You'll never have to go searching for great music to fill up your Music virtual folder in Windows Vista again. I do have some suggestions for Pandora, but I'll hold off on posting those until I spend a little bit more time with the service.
Blogger Tom Conrad said...
Hi Joe,

I'm really happy that you found Pandora. Thanks for the nice words; you've done a great job of describing how we taken a different path. We'll be delighted to let any of your readers into the preview. Just have them signup at the site ( or send an email to


Tom Conrad
CTO @ Pandora

PS: I'm also looking forward to hearing your critique of how we can be doing better. That's what the preview is all about.

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