Pandora needs a “people who like what I like also like…” system, like Amazon’s. Actually Amazon’s is “people who bought this item also bought…”, but the concept is similar.
I find that when I create a new Pandora station seeded with a few specific songs/bands, the station is great for a bit but really doesn’t have much selection after a while — songs I’ve thumbed-up are repeated frequently, and if I listen for too long at a stretch, as the station “runs out” of songs matching the original criteria and starts varying the parameters a bit to introduce a bigger selection of songs it can play, the new songs added really are by and large not all that great. I end up continually using “thumbs-down” on new songs presented, which in turn means that new songs (as we go farther and farther out into the pool of available music) are even more random and dissimilar to the original seeds (with fewer and fewer things I like), and so on. At that point a given Pandora station has been “depleted”, and isn’t worth listening to for a while. (Since when I do listen to it, it’s mostly stuff I’ve heard already.)
On the other hand, I take as an axiom that there are many, many amazing songs out there in the space of all music which I have not heard; songs which may have dimensions and sounds widely or wildly different from those matching the songs I’ve already liked and which I might never get to, otherwise. I want to hear those ones! I want to know what “people whose tastes most match mine” like. The parameters of a specific song, which might look like this, for example, according to Pandora:
- a Modern style
- a symphony orchestra
- harp playing
- major key tonality
- a singing, mellifluous aesthetic
- a tranquil feeling
- a well-known composer
- a bittersweet sentiment
…are academically interesting and useful for finding similar-sounding pieces, but I don’t truly care about similarity of sound after a point. There’s no magic formula based on categorizable parameters (even if we were to come up with much more abstract ones than the above) for what I’ll like, I’m sure, but I know that my tastes do align very strongly with certain people’s. For example, I tend to like a lot of what I hear on KCRW.
Maybe last.fm or other online radio experiences are better in this respect?
And not to knock Pandora too much; it’s great and I use it frequently (to drown out the Nerf-dart fights and stuff going on around me in the office when I actually have to work), just with frequent use one starts to come up against some limitations.