07 Dec 2005|Christoper Ireland

Thanks to an old Microsoft buddy, Nils von Veh, I now have my own radio station. No FCC regulations to worry about, no advertisers to please, no unbearable DJ chatter. Just a simple website that streams music I like for free from any PC.

The site is called Pandora, apparently in reference to Pandora’s Box, but I also have a lively friend named Pandora so I can pretend it’s her idea.

You start by entering a song or an artist you like and then Pandora begins playing music for you based on what it knows about your musical tastes. The songs are drawn from the 300,000 songs in the Music Genome Project database which essentially breaks down the DNA of music and identifies components like “mild rhythmic syncopation” or “a vocal-centric aesthetic.” By understanding the DNA of music you like, it’s able to find new music you are likely to enjoy. You help your station evolve by entering in more artists, songs or just evaluating what’s played.

So far, I’ve been very impressed with the site’s performance, particularly its suggestions of new artists and songs. I love music, but I don’t have time to find new sounds and this could make a difference. I have tens of thousands of songs in my iTunes library, but I like to mix in new tunes–especially if they expand on sounds and mixes I’ve come to love.

The only problem I’ve experienced is they don’t seem to recognize that “strong female singers” is a valid concentration. I’ve tried to build a station that only plays music similar to that produced by Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge, Gwen Stefani and Alicia Keyes, but Pandora insists on serving up soft-voiced male singers as a fit to my tastes in this area. In fact, the more females I add to station, the more Pandora tries to introduce me to new male singers. I’m hoping they’ll soon realize that I’m not looking for a date and that women are more than just wimpy versions of men.

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