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Music: Pandora vs. Last.FM

I found Pandora, by the Music Genome Project, and immediately feel in love.

Like it’s nemesis, last.fm, Pandora allows users to create their own streaming radio stations.
The main difference between Pandora and last.fm is that Pandora actually has music experts listen to music and fill out surveys detailing various aspects of the music, down to the song, not the album or artist. The aspects include actual musical terms that you’d know if you majored in music theory in college.
Last.fm, on the other hand, uses the highly over-rated Web 2.0 method of tags, which means that if you like “energetic,” “trippy,” “silly,” music, you’ll probably like this, since 50 other users felt that this music is energetic, trippy, and silly.
At first you might figure this is a good idea. The issue I have is that, I don’t want non-professionals interferring with my quest for new music. For instance, even though I can’t seem to find the interview to cite, a MGP rep said “…if Celine Dion ends up playing, maybe you’ll like it.” For instance, I was showing my Dad Pandora, and made a Billy Joel station. After the first Billy Joel song, came on STYX. Shocking? No, because the STYX song that came on sounded a lot like the Billy Joel song that was just on. Go figure… literally.

The Music Genome Project is set up to objectify music, so that it can be categorized and stored for future reference. This removes the user control over saying what the music embodies.

Quick FAQ

Q: How does Pandora select music to play?
A: You put in an artist or song, and Pandora will compile over and hour of music for you, in four-song blocks. Music contained in a block are classified as similar music. If you select “I like it,” it will continue to play that block. If you select “I don’t like it,” Pandora will move to the next four-song block.
Additionally, selecting “I like it,” or “I don’t like it” will affect the aspects of the music played.

The information about the four-song blocks is not found anywhere on Pandora’s web page. This was from an Email to one of their excellent support team.

Q: How much music does Pandora have?
A: “Our music library contains approximately 300,000 songs from over 10,000 artists.” They do not have any classical music at this time. (*, *)

Q: I made a [insert Artist Name here] station. Why does Pandora no longer plays songs by that artist?
A: You have accidentally banned the artist. Refer to Pandora FAQ #82 and the next answer.

Q: How do I go back and undo input that has affected my station?
A: refer to Pandora FAQ #67.

Important future ideas for Pandora:

  • Stand-alone player
  • Going public, stock style
  • Increasing their library

Let’s take an example of an artist: Shpongle (Pandora, last.fm)

Pandora’s qualifications:
…break-beat rhytms, latin influences, beats made for dancing, affected backup vocals and a high-pitched voice.

Last.FM’s tags

ambient chill chillout downtempo dub electronic electronica goa instrumental psy psychedelic psychedelic trance psychill psytrance rock shpongle trance trippy

As you can see the systems are completely different. It’s up to you to decide whether you want your music decided upon it’s technical merits, or by it’s genre and mood.*

*Although Pandora is my preferred music recommendation service, it does lack in some areas, such as the affect on psy-trance artists. Growling Mad Scientists produces hits of progressive trance; it does not stick to the goa/psy genre. On the other hand, the progressive trance songs that were played were similar to the GMS songs that were played. Hey, no one’s perfect.

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