Killer App for Music Aficionados

Date June 21, 2007

Within a one-week period, two different sources described Pandora to me. Jonathan Roe, a former co-worker, current friend, and musician who is actively playing with 3 or 4 different bands at any given time mentioned it over lunch. Then, I heard an interview with the founder of the site on an NPR podcast (the real focus of the piece was how royalties legislation is changing such that the site might wind up not being viable).

The concept is hinted at by the site’s tagline that the tool is “based on the Music Genome Project.” Pandora has an engine that is trying to catalogue all recorded music based on the “DNA” of the music — the use of vocal harmony, the use of acoustic instrumentation, specific instruments, and dozens of other attributes. So, you enter an artist or set of artists who you like, and Pandora dynamically builds a radio station that has other artists you might like. I started with John Prine, Todd Snider, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, and Jerry Jeff Walker. The site plays songs by those guys, of course. But, it does more.

It also played songs by other artists. For each song, you have the option to give it a thumbs-up (I like it) or a thumbs-down (I don’t really like it). It played some music by Kris Kristofferson (thumbs up), Gram Parsons (thumbs up), Son Volt (thumbs up), Johnny Cash (thumbs up), Woody Guthrie (thumbs up), George Strait (thumbs down — based on the song played), and others. The site then takes that additional data and tunes your preferences.

You can register for the site for free and then share your radio station with others.

And, the interface is very nice.

I’ve added a link to it in my “Links” section at right.

2 Responses to “Killer App for Music Aficionados”

  1. tront said:

    Hi Gillian – looks like you pulled your reference to Fair Game. Faith was talking with Anthony Volodkin about his service The Hype Machine which aggregates music blog content. It’s also a pretty killer app for music people. You can hear that interview here and I must add if you search for “hype machine” on our site it comes up immediately ok!?! ;)

    Thanks -
    Trent, Fair Game music / web person

  2. Gilligan said:

    Aha! THAT’s where I was getting my memories crossed. My excuse is that I listen to Fair Game through the podcast while at the gym between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM. I’m not fully awake. So, I caught the piece on The Hype Machine, too. As well as the the mash-up site from a few weeks ago (hmmm…my search for “mash-up” returns an episode from the beginning of the year; oh, wait. if I search for “mash” it turns up “Mashups from the Hood” from 24-May-2007). And, Amy Lavere. The music segments are awesome! So, I removed my mis-reference to where I heard about Pandora. But, I stand by my comments about how much richer the Fair Game site could be. Where do the text blurbs about each segment go once they get old? I couldn’t even figure out how to easily link to the Mashups from the Hood segment — would’ve needed to view source and ferret the link out there. Love the show. Love the music. Hope the show’s doing well enough that future budget will allow for upgrades there. Hey — neither the podcast nor the site has anything about how to support the program (Ira Glass plugs WBEZ contributions in every This American Life podcast). Thanks for the comment!

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