Saturday, March 1, 2008


I am listening to, as I write this, Pandora radio, which someone, as we used to say in the Sixties, "turned me on to." First of all I have to say I am someone who vastly prefers the vinyl record to any other kind of music listening experience, and it kind of amazes me that after 40 years of technological advancement, I'm sitting here listening to music on a device (emac) that looks and sounds much the same as this filmstrip thing I had when I was a kid, which played a story via film strip (I think it was called "Show and Tell" but I'm not sure) with audio provided by a record, and thus functioned as my first audio system. Pandora radio is a website in which you can enter a song or recording artist name, and then it will attempt to play similar music, creating, in effect, your own personal radio station.

It's an interesting project, and fun just to see how well it works, musical tastes being as extremely subjective as they are. I'm a little worried about the name Pandora, as well-- there is something ominous in that-- because of the well-known myth, the implications of Pandora's Box, etc. By the way, when I searched for Pandora's Box I discovered that there is an S&M/Fetish club by that name right in my neighborhood! I did not know that-- open for lunch, too! “I'll have a bagel and cream cheese and my balls stomped on with stiletto heels.” They do have some great looking rooms-- it could supply all the sets for the next Frankie Latina movie. The "Rubber Room" isn't open yet, but when it is, I'm there!

Sorry about that digression. I suppose the INTERNET could be renamed Pandora's Box, so I am just not going to worry about it. In my "test drive" this morning, I selected the song "Pandora's Box"-- the Aerosmith version-- (you know in THEIR version, they weren't referring to a cedar chest) to see what I get-- and it is a pretty interesting selection of songs. You always dream of going to a bar and they're playing a song you like, and then another, and then another! It NEVER happens-- though actually I knew some DJs in my former place of residence who could do that. What is nice is if there is music you are familiar with and then something you like but never heard before. I have to admit, that it is working pretty well today! There is a huge variety, and I'm not hating any of it. Also, they happened on a couple of really old things I have completely forgot abut, like a song from John Sebastian's "The Four Of Us"-- crazy.

My concern is that since there is a "guide us" function where you can indicate a thumbs up or down function for each particular song, if that affects not only one's particular ongoing personal choices, but the overall selection, that the mass influence (by the inevitable population of music geeks and obsessives sitting there approving and disapproving all day) will eventually lead from eclecticness to an unpleasant homogenization. Also, there is the "payola" potential, as with all radio stations in history. Also, there seems to be a pretty heavy preference to Rod Stewart. I mean, The Faces, too, and I love Rod Stewart, but you could hear Rod Stewart yelling after hitting his finger with a hammer, and it would STILL sound like Rod Stewart.

But overall, I'm pretty fascinated with this. I want to see how obscure they get-- what's the most obscure song or artist I can think of that will be my radio station. I guess my overall observation, at this point anyway, is that Pandora is "nifty."


Lucia said...

Hi Ray -

Glad to hear you're finding Pandora nifty! Thanks for test driving.

To answer a couple of your questions / concerns:

- When you give feedback on a song, it doesn't affect other people's stations. In fact, it only affects the one station you're currently working on.

- We don't accept any kind of "payola," I'm happy to tell you. Pandora makes music matches based on musicological traits, no matter how popular the band or how well-connected they are. Over 50% of the artists in our collection aren't even signed to a record label.

- If you find we don't have an obscure musician or band that you think we should have, just email suggest-music at pandora dot com, and we'll look into it.

- If you don't like a song, give it a thumbs down and it will never play on that station again. If you don't want to hear Rod Stewart, you just have to give two songs of his thumbs down, and he'll be banned from that station. (unless he was the seed for the station....)

- At the bottom of the mythical Pandora's Box was hope. :)

Let me know if you have any more comments or questions!

Lucia, from Pandora

Ray Speen said...

Thank you, Lucia, for addressing my concerns. I suppose I could have read more closely and known that feedback only affected my station-- but anyway, that's good to know!

Payola is a crude term, which I shouldn't have used, as it implies some coke or cash stuck inside an album cover. Of course, with mainstream radio, things are much worse than that, while being supposedly legitimate. It's good to hear that so many artists in your collection are unsigned, and that you'll consider adding obscure musicans. I'm sure I'll send some along!

I didn't want to imply that I don't like Rod Stewart-- in fact I LOVE Rod Stewart! I wish you wouldn't have used the word "seed" in the same paragraph as the mention of the man, however-- we're trying to put certain urban myths to rest for good.

I'm always a little confused-- is it better to be in the box or out of it-- or what is best for the world? Is escaping from the box bad because it's unleashed, or does that water it down? Is staying in the box good because it's contained, or is it bad because it's concentrated and potential? Anyway, I think that Pandora is a fine name for this project. It's provocative, powerful, and I can remember it!

Thanks for responding!

Kiki said...

FYI Pandora is unavailable outside the US of A due to licensing constraints.

friday11 said...

hi honey:

i found pandora in miami and loved it. i am glad you reminded me of it.

i love you,

Darius Smith said...
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