Pandora Internet Radio: The Box That Pours Out Music…Not Evil.

Michael Brasfield


Pandora Radio is an online radio service that allows its users to enter in a band name, genre, or song title, and then Pandora creates a custom radio station that plays artists with similar musical qualities.  What makes Pandora great is that they become the trusted friend that tells you about an artist you’ve never heard of, or they remind you of that song you haven’t heard in years. This allows the subscribers to Pandora to find new bands similar to the ones that they already love. [1]

Pandora has the ability to categorize, sort, and find similar artists by using the Music Genome Project. The way the Music Genome Project works is that every song in Pandora’s collection gets analyzed and broken down by 400 different attributes. [2] They categorize the songs by their “genes”, and stations are then put together by bands/songs that share genes with the band or song that you created the station with.[2] By doing this listeners are exposed to newer bands that they may never have heard on today’s radio.

What does this format of radio mean to todays artist? Most artists are not getting airtime on the usual radio rotation, furthermore these lesser known artists also don’t have the power to push their music through today’s major broadcast media channels. According to an interview with Tim Westergren (Pandora’s founder), out of Pandora’s Songs (roughly half a million) 70% are indie bands.[3] Not only that but 94-95% of Pandora’s songs are played every day.[3] This means that artists in Pandora’s collection are getting regular exposure. For the artist this allows them to reach out to potential listeners who otherwise may never have had the opportunity to hear them.

Another nifty feature of Pandora Internet Radio is the option to buy the music. This gives the listener the ability to conveniently click a few links and download the artists song or album from Amazon or Itunes in just a few seconds. Other features include the thumbs up and down options. This gives the listener control over what they have to listen to. The listener can choose to like a song, which then tells the system to focus on that songs genes. If the listener dislikes the song then that song is removed from that station for a month and the station doesn’t choose songs with too similar genes.[3]  This communication between radio and consumer allows for more interaction with the listener and thusly engages the listener to pay more active attention to the music.

There are two forms of Pandora Radio; free and subscription based. Free Pandora is ad supported and after every few songs an advertisement is played. These advertisements are usually fairly short which makes them bearable, but due to the free service an advertisement every so often isn’t a bad trade. The other option is subscription based; subscribers pay a small fee and they get unlimited listening, better audio, no ads, and more skips.

Pandora Radio is changing the way we listen to radio by allowing the user to craft their stations, interact with the rotation, and explore genres of music usually reserved for only the most diligent of musical adventurers. Pandora is also becoming available for almost any mobile device that can get an internet connection. With mobile versatility and active user participation Pandora Internet Radio has a sky limitation as to how they can innovate the way music is discovered.



Pandora Radio


Music Genome Project


Rocketboom: Interview with Tim Westergren of Pandora Radio

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