Pandora: part 3

One new aspect we will explore which Pandora does not work well with, is that tempo plays a large parts in the overall feel of a song. For instance when I put into Pandora that I want to listen to one type of musician that is most known for slow songs, when I get a fast song it is very jarring. All of these analyses of Pandora are based on a criticism of the lack of depth in the algorithm that Pandora uses to find music, discover and serve music based on what users want. And of course what users want is based on the desired station or track that they create.

Let us explore for a moment what I mean when I mentioned that Pandora does not attempt to use tempo as an indicator of desired music in their algorithm. If a user selects a band, for example, the band iron and wine, what users are saying is that at that moment they want to listen to music that has a very distinct set of characteristics. If I was a musicologist, I would describe Iron and Wine as having primarily steel string guitar, slower tempo and sort of a folksy style of performing, among other qualities. And as a result when I, as a user, create a station for the band Iron and Wine, Pandora’s job is to serve to me as a user music that is very similar in style, or in the same genre. To do this Pandora creates algorithms that search metadata, or data they create to describe bands, to find music that is similar to Iron and Wine. Normally the algorithm works very well in style or genre. But what I have noticed is that when serving up similar types of music, tempo is not included in their descriptions or their metadata. To the non musician, not using tempo as an indicator of musical similarity is not a problem. But for a musician it is incredibly jarring to be listening to one type of slow music, and then all of a sudden be jerked forward by similar types of music that have much faster tempos. As a result Pandora would be a tremendously better search engine if it included in its metadata about the individual bands, the tempo of the individual music tracks. This would allow Pandora to serve only music with a similar tempo to the station created by the user.

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