Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pandora Internet Radio

Interest Age Ages 13+

Genre All

Plot Summary
Pandora is a Web 2.0 tool for music, that is a product of the Music Genome Project. A user creates a profile and then can generate up to 100 (with the free account) customized radio stations. A user could search for an artist that she likes, say the Jonas Brothers or Black-Eyed Peas, and by selecting that artist's name, the Music Genome Project will generate a playlist of music that shares certain similarities (tonality, vocalist's gender, rhythm, etc.) with the artist you have identified. You will not be getting a playlist of only Jonas Brothers music, though you will get some, but you will be getting similar music. If the playlist includes a song that you don't think is a good fit, you may give a thumbs down, and likewise, if you really like a song, you may give a thumbs up. In this way, the Music Genome Project "gets smarter" about what you like and what you're looking for. With the free account, users must watch a brief advertisement once per hour, or each time you select a new station.

Critical Evaluation
Pandora seems like a great way to sample music and perhaps find some new artists; once you've listened to a few things on your playlist, you might want to purchase an album or new songs. It's fun to play around with it and make new stations to fit your listening mood: quiet instrumentals, raucous pop music, old-school rap, folk, indie, etc. This is a powerful tool to explore and underscores the Web 2.0 concepts of customization, "if you like this, try this..." and modifying results to return even better matches. The interface is easy to understand, and users have the ability to purchase a single song from a link box at the bottom. There is also information about the artist, album, song, their contributions to their genre, and lyrics. Users have the option to share a song through Twitter, Facebook, and email.

Reader's Annotation
Your own personal music stations to fit your individual tastes and moods, right from your own computer. Pandora makes it possible to get into your musical groove and discover new artists at the same time.

Author Information
The write-up from the website seemed so succinct that I have included it in its entirety here:
Since we started back in 2000, we have been hard at work on the Music Genome Project. It's the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Together our team of fifty musician-analysts has been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song. It takes 20-30 minutes per song to capture all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound - melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more - close to 400 attributes! We continue this work every day to keep up with the incredible flow of great new music coming from studios, stadiums and garages around the country.
(For more information and to read more, check out Pandora's official site.)

Challenge issues
As with any online application, users are giving out personal information when they sign up: age, gender, location, etc. This may make some users uneasy, as data mining is so prevalent and internet privacy is of great concern for some users.

Booktalking Ideas
I would love to see Pandora included in a booktalk on music history and theory, perhaps mixing in some biographies of famous historical and contemporary composers.

Curriculum Ties
Listening to Pandora could be an interesting assignment for a music class (if all students are over 13 and parents agree to it), particularly comparing and contrasting the songs that Pandora "thinks" a user will like. Can we hear the similarities also? Does the Music Genome Project always get it right?

Why this site?
I have heard some tweens talking about playing around with Pandora as a way to explore new artists, for free, and you get to hear the whole song, unlike with iTunes.


Rockport Public Library owns?
Available on the internet.

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