Sunday, May 18, 2008

Opening Pandora's Box at MIT

(originally published by on Oct. 03 2006)

"How many people here have their own blog? How many people here read blogs? Turns out, that's a parallel universe" -Pandora founder Tim Westergren musing on the his previous lack of awareness of the blogosphere, and how it helped catapult Pandora's user base via posts on Slashdot, Fark, and Something Awful forums.

Westergren has been traveling the country hosting meetings in communities all over the states, to discuss the service and take suggestions on making it better. He is keeping a blog of his experience here, and will be coming to MIT tonight @ 7pm. They've requested you send an RSVP to with Boston in the subject line if you will be attending. Our sibling in DC was there when Tim visited Washington in July, and conducted a very informative interview with him. And Tim brought his tour to Amherst last night, and we took some notes.

About 40 people attended the meeting last night, and Tim spoke with the crowd for an hour and a half. He detailed the history of Pandora, it's trouble during the dot com crash in Silicon Valley, and it's subsequent blossoming to 3 and a half million listener mark. He also took some questions from the audience. And of course, he had free shirts and hats.

Pandora, and the Music Genome Project is a free streaming music service that allows users to create up to 100 personalized radio stations. You can do so by adding an artist or a song title, and Pandora will search its genome database to find similar music. You can rate songs with a thumbs up, or a thumbs down, which will help to further refine the music that is played.The service does much more, and has many more features, though this is the basic premise. And though it is widely known as a personalized radio station, another important facet about Pandora to note is its commitment to exposing "the middle class of music," as Tim calls it, to listeners. Pandora actively encourages musicians to send in their own cd's, to be listened to and catalogued by the 43 trained musicians working for him to classify music in the Genome Project. Every CD is listened to, and a judgment call is made in regards to including the music, or not. It is a subjective decision, though they err on the side of inclusiveness. After the CD is accepted, it should appear in the database of songs with in days. Tim's hope is to facilitate greater exposure for musicians who might have otherwise lanquished in local obscurity, and to alter the current structure of the music business, where last year, of the 27,000 cd's released and registered with Soundscan, only 5000 accounted for sales. When you listen to a song on Pandora, you can get information on the artist, and links to buy the track or album. They hope to add more features soon, such as being able to view a list of upcoming shows for the artist after clicking on the name. We'd like to see rep's from local starup Echo Nest at this event. They're working on technology that will actually map out music and suggest similar music without relying on users to make the connections.

When: Tuesday, October 3rd - 6 pm
Where: MIT Campus: Building 26, Room 100
General campus address is 77 Massachusetts Avenue, access to Building 26
is via 60 Vassar St.

15 Ways to get more out of Pandora, via Lifehacker