Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Pandora’s musical box:

Maths teacher Sue Brown likes the idea of a musical genome project using algorithms to give her music she didn't even know.
By Sue Evans
Date: April 05 2013
Editor Rating:

"I want you to try this," the Motherpedia editor said to me. "Write what you think about it. It's all based on an algorithm."

That got me in - talking about algorithms. I know about those, but I know very little about music.  

I did as I was asked - and I'm hooked. I now have 40 of my own 'radio stations' and I'm still going.

I'm talking about Pandora

It's a great concept. First, you need to go online to the Pandora website, or simply download the App to your smartphone or tablet and create an account. It is free, but there is also a 'Pandora One' version if you want it advertisement-free for $36 a year or $3.99 a month. I use the free version as the advertising is minimal.

To create your first radio staion, you simply put in a song, performer, album or composer that you like. Pandora then develops the station for you based on a music genome project which analyses 450 individual characteristics in music (this is where algorithms come into it!). This analysis has been going on for 10 years and is still continuing. But what it does is deliver to your 'station' are songs, or pieces of music, which have characteristics in common with the one you identified in the first place.

To give you some examples:

  • for my grandkids, I put in 'The Wiggles' and have a station which gives me songs from The Wiggles, Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse, Walt Disney, Choo Choo Soul and others.
  • for me, I put in Elvis Presley (yes, I know this shows my age) and I also got Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, The Foundations and The Platters. Ahhh .... those were the days! I admit I love listening to music like this when I'm doing the housework!

As Pandora's musicologists are constantly analysing the music which Pandora adds to their library, Pandora gives you an option to give a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' to each piece, so they can continue to refine that station for you. If you really don't like something, you just give it a 'thumbs down' and it moves on. The music genome project is conducted by real people, not machines, so it's constantly responding to what your reaction is to a particular piece within a station.

The best part of it is, in my view, that you don't know what you don't know. So I have heard new songs from new or even familiar artists, or old songs from new artists. It really opens up the musical world to you, and you can create up to 100 different stations drawing on the 1 million+ tracks in Pandora's library.

Pandora really is a personal musical world of which you're in charge. It's great for a party, and it's wonderful to have on when the grandchildren are around.

While Pandora is fairly new in Australia, it has almost 70 million users in the US. They can't be wrong; and they're not. Try it for yourself.

* * *

Check out Pandora here.

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