How Pandora Picks Your 'Favorite' Songs
About 25 analysts rank and quantify the music
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2014 5:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Pandora relies on complex computer software to grade it songs ... right? Not so, reports Rob Pegoraro at BoingBoing: About 25 music analysts at the company's Music Genome Project personally rank and quantify each song with up to 450 "genome units." For example, vocals are graded from 1 to 5 on "Melodic Articulation Clean-to-Dirty" (how well the melody hits the beat), "Delivery Spoken-to-Sung" or "Smooth or Silky" (Tom Waits' "Come On Up to the House" received an unsurprisingly low 1). Pandora's analysts, often hired by word-of-mouth in the Bay Area music scene, can analyze about 4 songs per hour, or 10,000 monthly.

Next, your playlists are are balanced by factors that balance relevance with variety—and that, writes Pegoraro, is where the company "lets me down most often." He finds the "talent pool can look a little shallow. Not just the same artists but the same albums crop up repeatedly." (Music researcher Jason Kirby raised a similar issue at Scholars' Lab a few years back, calling "homogeneity of songs' tempo an issue.") Other tidbits on the Genome Project: It doesn't care where you are (there's no "locavore listening"), and gives more weight to negative feedback than positive.

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Showing 3 of 6 comments
May 28, 2014 10:37 AM CDT
I renew every year just because I'm too lazy to go with the other services... Did try Spotify and go to them if I exhaust the Pandora daily limit of 'don't likes.' Get a lot of repetition on Pandora, lately.
May 26, 2014 10:46 PM CDT
Pandora is like the Myspace of song streaming. Grooveshark trumps it in every way imaginable - unless you like the annoyances highlighted in this article. I don't use spotify because you used to have to sign in with Facefvck. Supposedly you don't anymore, but that was enough to turn me off it.
May 26, 2014 9:29 PM CDT
What if there is a recessive allele lurking in Pandora's genome box?