The Music Genome Project: Pandora

In Columns on December 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm

By: Forest GatesThe music genome project: based on a single string of user input, artists and tracks are selected from a gigantic database based on musical qualities and traits. By entering one song or artist, the user can have access to hundreds of more songs. This is perfect for the music listener who is looking for indie bands or is a budding fan of an underdog genre. This project is merely a by-line for the real title of this fantastic web-based application, and its name is Pandora.

            To put it in other words, or the words commonly used by Pandora to explain its program, it is the “music genome project.” What this means is that they collect a very large amount of tracks from artists from every genre and categorize them. These traits can be as general as “rap” and can also be more specific, such as “aggressive male lead.” They do this for every single individual track because artists sometimes change their styles between albums. This is a monumental task that must have been unfathomably tedious. Just as geneticist Francis Collins is doing today with the human genome, Pandora already did with music.

            Of course there is more to it than the user entering just one track and being satisfied for hours on end. After all, the categories that are used to label tracks have to be general enough so that they will be selected eventually. After the first few songs, it is recommended that the user either approves or disapproves them so that Pandora can continue to whittle down the categories to fit the user’s tastes better. If the user approves a song, Pandora will search its database again for songs that have traits shared in common with not only the original song or artist that the user originally stipulated, but most of the other approved songs that the user gave the thumbs up to in the past. It is a balancing act, so the user must be quick to disapprove a song that Pandora selected if it doesn’t fit his/her tastes for that specific channel. This is easy enough to do if you’re listening to it while browsing the web, but while you are playing computer games, it may not be as convenient. Overall, it works very well; it is simple enough for first time users to instantly jump into to, and it is free.

            Pandora is a great way to quickly listen to some decent music or discover new bands for you to enjoy. You can access it by going to and creating a channel after a short registration. Pandora has also recently released condensed versions for various different MP3 players and smart phones for those who have them.

The logo for Pandora's iPhone application. Photo courtesy of Google images


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