New Zealand's in Pandora
Wed, 11 Jul 2012 4:54p.m.
By Dylan Moran
One of the curses of the internet – at least for me – has been seeing my American-based mates raving on about the internet music streaming service Pandora and not being able to enjoy it myself.
Put simply, Pandora is a free service which allows you to find similar music to your favourite artists, songs or genres as though you’re listening to a radio station.
One of the problems with relying on a music blog or similar for music recommendations is that you’re completely subjected to that person’s personal opinions on a track. If they don’t like it, it won’t go up – but it might have been perfect for you.
So I watched my blogroll grow and grow to the point where signing into Google Reader is now an incredibly daunting prospect, and my music library halted what had been a daily growth for about a year.
The difference with Pandora is that it is you controlling the selections and it’s as easy as clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook.
All you need to do to get started is pick your favourite musician, band, song or genre. It’ll automatically generate you a station and every action you take from there on will narrow it down even further.
You can give a track a ‘thumbs up’ to say you like it and Pandora will endeavour to find similar tracks.
I’ve used similar services in the past, but a lot of them seem to rely on ‘Oh you like such and such, he’s from the same city as this person, so you’ll probably like them too’. Giving feedback can be so difficult I often don’t even bother.
Not so with Pandora. Giving feedback is simple and even after creating an Atlanta Only station I was given West Coast and East Coast rap, as well as an incredibly random, though not unwelcome, appearance by The Offspring.
However, one immediate downside is it appears Pandora relies on artists being signed to major labels and already having albums released. This is good for quickly sating your musical appetite (oh, they’ve got four albums, there’s my listening for the next week) but if you’re wanting to follow a band on the come-up you’re better off sticking to The Hype Machine.
It also means your selection is somewhat limited. For instance, don’t bother with Pandora in the hopes of finding too much New Zealand music on there, and the selection which is available is a bit up and down.
Scribe, PNC, Blindspott, 8 Foot Sativa and a few others aren’t available, but Savage, Kimbra, Ladyhawke, David Dallas, Concord Dawn and Stellar are.
The more obscure (or ‘refined’) your music tastes are, the less chance you will find heaven on Pandora.
If you don’t like a track, you can skip it – but you are severely limited in the number of skips you may perform in an hour. This is a good thing though. I surprised myself with the number of songs I’d thumbs down early on, only to have it grow on me by the end of the track.
The lack of a ‘replay’ or ‘back’ button are unfortunate as there are a number of times I’d like to listen to a track multiple times for whatever reason. You can tell Pandora not to play a track for a month because you’re sick of it, but it’d be nice to have the option of highlighting a song you’ll never get sick of to increase the chances of it being played more often.
I’m unsure how exactly the algorithm functions, but my very first station (an easy ‘test’ with Kid Cudi, Ludacris, Kanye West and Spank Rock) seemed to befuddle Pandora. It spent three hours last night playing a Wiz Khalifa track, then Outkast, then Sublime, before repeating this trio of artists with different tracks from each.
Today, though, I’ve had a lot more variety on the free service. With around 10 hours clocked up on that original station, I’m starting to see acts creep in I wouldn’t usually listen to with tracks I really enjoy. Pandora delights in telling me "we're playing this track because it features hardcore rap influence, West Coast rap roots, East Coast rap influences, electronica influences and funk influences."
I’m assured the more you use a station the more refined it will become as it takes into account tempo, track length, cadence, beat… there are apparently over 400 different things Pandora takes into account before selecting the next track.
The possible station variations are limitless. For instance the background music station I created through M83, Florence + The Machine, Now Now Every Children, Metric, The Postal Service, Jamie XX and Theophilus London rarely plays any of those, but has introduced me to several delightful new acts such as The Submarines (“we're playing this track because it features basic rock song structures, electronica influences, punk influences, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and a vocal-centric aesthetic”).
After just one day it’s been well worth the wait and has definitely lived up to the hype. I’ve found so much new music in just a few hours listening.
Now can we have Netflix and Hulu please?
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12/07/2012 2:07:40 p.m.
Pandora is indeed great. I used it driving into the city and back today playing through the car stereo via the Android App (you need to have a phone with root access) it didnt miss a beat. Really missed it when it offline for NZ a few yaers ago.
11/07/2012 6:27:42 p.m.
Been using Pandora here in California for 2-3 years and its wicked. Got 6 different stations (genres), ranging from 80s punk to Rap and 50s/60s rat-pack crooners. I've built them all up over the last 12 months and nowadays I log in, select all 6 stations and put them on shuffle. Catch up on the like/dislikes every 15/20 mins and its sweet as!! Recommend it to any music lovers.
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