Friday, November 11, 2005

Open Pandora's Box for Free!!!

Several months ago, I heard about a supposedly unique music service named Pandora and I was rather skeptical about the premise of a website being able to determine what music I like by what selections I would make.

I know that Amazon has similar technology in place and recommends various books, movies, music, and more based upon your past purchases or even what pages you visit.

So I then checked out Pandora and it was wonderful.

Pandora does something that I did not expect it to do.

Pandora is the result of The Music Genome Project where Tim Westergren, founder of The Music Genome Project notes on the Pandora website that on "January 6, 2000 a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.

Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.

Over the past 5 years, we've carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world."

What this essentially means for music lovers of all genres is that the DNA of music has been analyzed, deconstructed, and a it is now a little more understandable why we love certain artists and songs versus others.

I entered the name of a band that I have been a fan of since junior high school named Cameo.  The songs that were then streamed included a hit single of Cameo but were followed by songs that also exist within my own collection of vinyl, CDs, and now a few digital downloads.

It is like The Music Genome Project has found one of my favorite DJs from back in the old days when I listened to WCIG 107.1 FM in Mullins, SC. 

It is like someone has captured the heart and soul of on-air personalities like Casper the Master Blaster, Dr. Lovejoy, Super Nunnie, Youngblood the Teenage Legend, Bubbling Brown Sugar (where are you, I miss you), Sarah Angelou (I cannot remember your on-air name at this moment) and Cynthia the First Lady (thanks for being consistent with the many contests that I won) that were the usual suspects of playing great music on WCIG.

I remember that for a school project I interviewed WCIG's station owner Forrest Ramsey who later became the mayor of Mullins, SC.  I was probably in ninth grade at the time.  The experience was one of the coolest that I have ever had at such a young age.

I was more surprised at the how the station looked both old and played the latest music at the same time;)  The FM signal was later sold to another company and the AM signal now plays gospel music (and not too much urban contemporary gospel either).

But back to Pandora.

With the analysis of music done, Pandora connects and plays songs that have a very similar structure.  I probably have heard no more than 5 songs played yet.  Pandora then when I first tried it provided 10 hours of free listening before charging a monthly fee.

I discovered that it was reported on Digg that Pandora is now a free service.  They appear to be an affiliate of both Amazon and iTunes.  So I know that Pandora will be one of my favorite websites to stream whenever I am online.

I just have one suggestion for Pandora and that is to be able to add a song or artist and see how the new selection fits into the choices already made.

Wow---I was going back and forth to Pandora while creating this blog entry and see that this is already a possibility.

I wanted to be able to add an artist like Kirk Franklin or Fred Hammond and see how the combination of secular and gospel artists and songs would work.

I have yet to actually try this, but I am going to by the time this blog entry is complete.

Pandora is already a great tool to create a playlist if you need to DJ an event of your own or just for your listening pleasure.

I am also going to create a choice (called a station) of some obscure artists and songs that I remember to see how they relate to songs available today.  So get ready for an Egyptian Lover station:) 

Pandora is streaming "In My Eyes" by Stevie B and although I did not buy this song while attending college, it is not one that would make me leave a dance floor;)

Technology is really working something wonderful for music, arts, and entertainment these days.

Check out Pandora for yourself and I will be sharing the stations that I create as well.  I would like to be able to post them to this blog and I know of one other blog related service add-on that can do this.

Now if only Pandora was able while driving;)  But I know that internet connected cars are not that far off from becoming a reality in our future.

Pandora had a hard time adding Kirk Franklin's music to the Cameo station.  Since Kirk has recorded under multiple names, I will probably use a song title instead.

But Pandora has already played a song or two that I would not have played on my own if I were the DJ.  This is what radio program directors and media companies totally forgot when they were buying radio stations and consolidating the broadcast industry since the mid 80s.

People want someone who will listen to them to create the local playlists if the listeners cannot create their own playlists.  Putting the listener in the driver's seat as media programmers and program directors is the best move any media outlet can make.


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