I forget how I first stumbled upon Pandora radio - it was around 2007 - but I remember being amazed by the accuracy and "in tune with me" songs it was playing. For the uninitiated, Pandora allows users to create a playlist by entering one song and Pandora then starts playing similar songs, with users able to press thumbs up or down to show their preferences.
According to Pandora's founder Tim Westergren, it's like "musical DNA" as Pandora tailors the tracks played to each individual listener - "It's basically an enormous musical taxonomy of over a million songs that have each been analysed for as many as 450 attributes per song by a team of trained musicians".
Just as I was getting into Pandora years ago, Australian access to the site was pulled due to licensing issues (the site officially relaunched in Australia in December 2012).
It is a remarkable music service. There are countless arguably-competing offerings such as Rdio, iTunes Radio, Spotify, Deezer etc etc these days, but even years ago Pandora's ability to recognise quite obscure songs input by the user and return really great recommendations of music you might like was a great experience.
Admittedly, I do not frequently use Pandora or any other streaming music service much at present. This is largely as I am not short of other ways to discover new music (through connections on social media, with bandmates, through composition work, email lists such as Noise Trade, etc). I have also felt that family life leaves me less free to immerse myself in music discovery than I would like. I touched on this in a short post some time ago titled "A Fascination With Music is to be Indulged, Not Forgotten".
Interestingly, Jane noted that unlike iTunes, Spotify and others, Pandora is aiming to satisfy the desire for a passive listening experience. i.e. Not about selecting a particular track or album and streaming it, but about being the best at recognising the music you like and playing tracks you may have never heard of that it perceives you will also enjoy. Indeed it was said that Pandora aims to bring you "the music you listen to when you're doing something else". I found it interesting to hear this as the squarely targeted aim of the service - over a year ago I reflected on the question "Is Music Just Background for Your Eyes?".
Furthermore I loved the comment that in Jane's own home music is often playing, and one of her children once asked "What did we do before we played music?". What a great question - especially now when many kids are more wondering what life was ever like before the internet. Gees, many of us who grew up before the internet took over our world find it hard to recall what life was like before!
A few final points and stats I found fascinating from the presentation:
- Pandora has over 200 million registered users, 75 million active per month (Spotify by comparison has 24 million active users per month)
- 72% of all internet radio listening is done on Pandora
- 1 in 3 smartphones have accessed Pandora radio in the last 30 days
- 70% of the music in Pandora is by independent artists
- 95% of music in Pandora is spun at least once a month
- 70% of new Holden vehicles will have Pandora on-board by the end of 2013
- The average Australian Pandora listener listens for 2 hours and 3 minutes per day
Whether via Pandora or any other means, what a great thing it would be if more kids asked their parents "What did we do before we played music?"...
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