Pandora’s Music Genome Project


In the life of a poor college student, buying music just doesn’t seem economical. Lucky for this generation, Pandora exists. Pandora is a free music streaming site which creates a radio station specifically for your taste. The algorithm they use is called the Music Genome Project, and it is quite interesting.

In order to start a station, you must choose a song or an artist that Pandora has in their lengthy music catalogue to base off of. For this blog, let us use my Allen Stone station as an example. Each time you start a new station, Pandora will play you a song by the artist you’ve chosen, and then the second song will deviate from the artist, giving you a sense of variety. While listening to your station, Pandora allows you to either “like” or “dislike” songs. If you like a song, Pandora will take note, and they will remember that music’s specific genome, and will base future suggestions off of that. If you dislike a song, Pandora will skip the song, and take note that one or more of the traits in the song turned you off to it, and will eliminate those traits from your station.

Unfortunately, because Pandora is free, they do not own all the songs that they play, and therefor you have a limited amount of skips until you are forced to finish a song despite the fact that you disliked it. This is why it is so important that Pandora tailors your specific station to you, for if you dislike too many songs and run out of skips, you will stop using Pandora, therefor leading to the amount of hits on their website decreasing, thereby decreasing their advertising revenue. Pandora relies mostly on advertising, but they also have a premium service, called PandoraOne, which lets you stream songs with unlimited skips.

The music genome works like this: each song that Pandora has the rights to is analyzed by an employee who has gone through extensive music training. Most of these music analysts have gone through four years of music school with a degree in either music theory, composition, or performance. These analysts have an evaluation process with over 450 criteria that include everything from a song’s lyrical meaning to its instrumentation.

On my Allen Stone station, this was the rationale for one song:”Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features modern r&b stylings, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, mixed minor & major key tonality and mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation.” Each song that pandora plays has a very thorough, detailed explanation for why it is being played for you.

Pandora’s formula seems to work quite well, for many of my peers use Pandora, and their earnings have been increasing to show that. With the release of Apple Music, a streaming service that charges $10.00 a month for unlimited streaming and downloads, Pandora may face some trouble ahead, but the science behind their project is still quite sound.

1 thought on “Pandora’s Music Genome Project

  1. Taylor Leigh Mitchell

    As soon as I saw the pandora picture it caught my eye! i Absolutely love this app and i use it daily, the only issue with it is the commercials. Listening to ads that interrupt my music is never fun and especially when i am working out that is the last thing i want to happen. I have recently been using Spotify instead of pandora because they have less commercials. I also have learned that spotify has better play lists putt together then pandora.

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