The Music Genome Project was supposed to change the way we listen to music online, or at least how music is organized. According to the founders, “the project was an effort to capture the essence of music at the fundamental level using almost 400 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them.” Under the direction of Nolan Gasser, the musical structure and implementation of the Music Genome Project, made up of 5 Genomes (Pop/Rock, Hip-Hop/Electronica, Jazz, World Music, and Classical), was advanced and codified.
The Music Genome Project is the backbone of the popular online radio service known as Pandora. Pandora utilizes the genome as a jumping off point toward something called a “distance function.” In essence, when you input a band, song or basic genre, a station is built using the above attributes. The distance function includes songs and groups that may not include all of the attributes of your original entry. Basically it moves you from your comfort zone toward new music you may enjoy.
When I first stumbled onto Pandora in 2004, it was a breath of fresh air. I enjoy a wide variety of artists and genres, so having access to such a vast quantity of songs was fantastic. I enjoyed being challenged by some of the selections on my stations. I spent a fair amount of time adding artists and songs to my established stations and using the “thumbs” to indicate my likes and dislikes. Pandora was a big part of my Internet time. This has continued as Pandora has grown and has been included on most devices. I now play my custom stations in my car, on my TV, and on my and phone.
My very first Pandora station is still active. It has over 900 adjustments and includes almost everything I can think to add. Over the past 9 years my tastes have changed slightly, they have grown in ways that I must attribute in part to Pandora. However I am considering shutting the whole thing down over the following 3 points:
How many times must I tell Pandora I don’t like Bryan Adams?:
You tell Pandora what you like or don’t like by hitting the thumbs up or thumbs down icon attached to each song. These ratings sort of work…in a way…sometimes. If you “thumbs down” an artist (Say Bryan Adams) and that artist was ever part of another band or appeared on a film soundtrack etc. then you will have to “thumbs down” each individual entry (All For One, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves sound track etc.) Also as you create additional stations you must go through this process each time. The ratings do not carry over to other stations.
There is no way to eliminate an entire genre or era:
I am a lover of classic rock, though I feel the word classic is kicked around with little criteria to define it. Say you want to eliminate the 80s or 90s from a straight forward rock station. You can’t. Let alone get specific enough to remove, say, ’80s ballad heavy roots rock from Canadians. Canadians named Bryan, for instance.
How many times must I hear the same commercials?:
In the beginning, Pandora was ad free. When they began adding commercials the frequency of ad play was as predictable as traditional radio. Now I cannot determine the sequence. At times I can hear 10 songs with zero ads, others I get an ad every 3rd song. This would not be a big deal except they only appear to have 5 ads. These are played completely at random, so you wind up hearing the same ad three times in the same 30-minute period. Imagine if that ad were for a Bryan Adams’ greatest hits package or tour; it would be unbearable.
So I find my time on Pandora more and more limited in an effort to avoid frustration. These few complaints are causing the music to have the opposite of its desired effect. Also Bryan Adams sucks!