Don’t miss Pandora

I’ve developed a new habit over the past few months that I want to share. It’s called Pandora, and I think it may be the most significant new concept to come down the pike in years. You may have heard of it — you may even be an experienced user — but Pandora is much more than it seems, and that’s what I want to share with you.

For the unenlightened, Pandora is a music application connected to what the founder calls the “Music Genome Project.” In a nutshell, the creators have listened to thousands of songs and coded each with “genes” — common attributes that enable users to find music they like. With Pandora, you build your own radio station, but you do it through defining your tastes, not selecting songs you already know. As the site feeds you tunes, you can tweak your tastes by telling the software whether you like or dislike a song. What comes out is a unique blend of music you’ve heard and a lot that you haven’t. You can add artists or song titles to further refine the stream of music. You cannot self-select tunes; that’s not what Pandora’s all about. It’s a brilliant effort to introduce you to new artists, and this is its power. When you hear a tune you like, you simply add it to your favorites list, which provides an RSS feed that makes acquiring new music easy.

I love Pandora and am thoroughly addicted.

And there are a couple of things about Pandora that those of us who follow media and the unbundling thereof need to understand, because they are enormously significant as we look to the future.

One, Pandora, while helping the music industry by directing people to purchase music they’ve found, completely destroys the command and control needs of the industry as a whole. When you listen to Pandora, you’re immediately taken by the sheer volume of music that’s available, people you’ve never heard of and styles you’ve never considered — all based on what you’ve described as your tastes. While this is fabulous for artists of all sorts, it undercuts the one-way marketing stream upon which the institutional music industry is built. I certainly view this as a good thing, but it’s further evidence of why we no longer need a handful of greedy executives determining what is or isn’t popular, and that is trouble for the status quo.

What you come away with is a completely different view of the music industry, one of breathtaking creativity, depth and opportunities for the future. Do you think everything coming from the record companies sounds the same these days? Take Pandora for a spin, and you’ll be blown away. I cannot possibly overstate the significance of this.

Pandora levels the playing field and decreases the need for middlemen in the music buying equation, and that means hope for the thousands of artists and musicians who live on the edges of an institution entrenched in formulas of what it believes will appeal to a mass audience. But music and the other arts were never intended for such. They belong to everybody, and Pandora helps me realize that creative energy is alive and well in our culture. It’s just been hidden in the name of the dollar.

Two, Pandora answers — from a technological perspective — the nagging Modernist question posed by mainstream media people as they stare at the disruption of personal technology. The thinking is that people will miss important information if they select only that which is important to them. “How,” I’m often asked, “will people find what they’re not looking for?” (The question actually means, “How will I be able to insert my own message in the stream that gets to most people.”) Pandora answers that question beautifully, and some day somebody will create a news-driven Pandora-type application. We have aggregators that come close, but this will be different, because it will require identifying news “genes” in the same way Pandora has done it for music.

We’ll have Pandoras for video and films, anything that entertains us. We’ll share what we like with our tribe members, and they’ll do the same with us. Remember, the application doesn’t compete with other distribution methods, because you can’t select specific titles to hear. This is how we’ll find things we’re not looking for. If you want to specifically program your own listening, well that’s called an iPod. 🙂

Pandora’s business model is subscription or advertising. You make the choice when you create an account and start building your “radio station.” Don’t miss Pandora, but more importantly, don’t miss its significance in the landscape of Media 2.0.

And never underestimate what free people can come up with to meet their own needs.


  1. I’m with you, Terry. Pandora rocks! (Or folks! Or raps! whatever your preference) Sites like these will help TV and radio people get over the idea that viewers just want to turn their TV on and “watch what’s on.”

  2. This is astounding. So far I’ve liked every song they’ve played. Thanks for my newest addiction!

  3. Love it. Love it. Love it. I’ve been using Pandora to drown out the drone of the newsroom for weeks now.

    It rules.

  4. Pandora is a great service, and I’ve found a few unknown bands through it.

    I only miss a way to propose new music to the service, as I’d like a bit more spanish music (other than Julio Iglesias, of course 😉

  5. I also appreciate it since reading about it at the Nashville Scene site but it has a major flaw. While it’s pretty right on regarding music styles it fails to take into account lyric content. I given the ‘thumbs down’ to several artists that have the right sound but lyrics I certainly don’t like or agree with.

  6. There are two other good options out there you might check out:

    I’ve used all three of these services, and I’ll say that launchcast has been the best in selecting the music. It’s downside is that it has ads every 5 songs that get pretty annoying. Viva la personalized radio!

  7. Dave Bullard says

    Pandora is amazing.

    I have tried other services, such as Musicmatch Jukebox, Live 360’s specialty stations and lots of others.

    I can’t believe Pandora works so well while the others seem so unfiltered. Jukebox allows you to pick an artist and listen to a station made up of songs from that artist and other artists it says are similar.

    I listened over two nights to the Marshall Crenshaw station (I’m a big fan; it’s also a good test of the depth of a service to pick a minor artist.). It didn’t stink; it didn’t soar.

    Half an hour on Pandora, having selected Marshall Crenshaw as my station, and I am in love.

    I’m hearing not just established artists, as on Jukebox, but also artists I’ve never heard of. And the music is right on.

    I also love the ability to vote on whether the song should stay on my personalized station or not.

    It’s the kind of control that Accuradio gives you, the ability to deselect artists…but with the added ability to add artists to the filter.

    Stunning, and thanks for the recommendation.

  8. disagreeing says

    Pandora is completely useless for me. It has no classical music in its database that I can find. Plus, every email I’ve sent to their support address has bounced 5.5.0 “unknown user”.

  9. Pandora’s easier to use, but is much more fun — a real community site.

  10. Pandora’s easier to use, but is much more fun — a real community site.

  11. I am ADDICTED to Pandora, although it’s kind of disappointing to realise I’m so predictable.

    I’ve already added several albums to my Amazon Wish List from artists I’d never even heard of, so it can only be a good thing for bands that aren’t yet enjoying commercial success. For example, after hearing and liking music on Pandora from a Swedish band called ‘Convoj’ I checked out their website and found a message board full of comments from people all over the world saying that they heard of the band through Pandora and asking when they were touring!

    Pandora will be even better if they’re able to acquire licenses to expand their music base. One suggestion though – I would like to be able to ‘ban’ certain artists. I keep rejecting songs by artists I can’t stand but because their ‘genes’ have characteristics I should love I keep getting other stuff from them, much to my annoyance. At least I’m not 100% predictable!

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