How does Pandora work?

I know the basics of “We can’t play that band [why? legal reasons?] but we can play that band along with other similar artists.”

So why when I have a Sting station I get a fair amount of Sting and maybe 3 other artists but that’s it?

Why is it the same songs over and over? I think they have 8 songs from Sting, 2 from Seal, and Hotel California that make up 80% of the station.

I know my U2 station is not all U2 all the time but honestly there is more Coldplay than U2 songs on that station. Why is it not a U2 song every 3-5 songs? And again the same 10 songs make up 80% of the play list. Aren’t all songs (within reason) available on Pandora?

Very often when I start a station, it starts with the same song as last time. Bad RNG? Predetermined playlist? Something else?

I can’t answer the technical questions, but the point of Pandora is not to make a “Sting station.” It’s to make an “Incomprehensible Lyrics English Singers” station. In other words, add more much to diversify it. And thumbs up/down other songs that come randomly to make it more specific.

I think they intentionally try not to play the same things too often. It doesn’t play the same artist all the time because that’s not what they want to do, as noted in your first sentence.

Lots of people prefer other websites (Spotify?) for that reason, that Pandora’s too random. Personally, I find that a perk, and I consider Pandora’s main draw is as a service to teach you about new music.

Same song? I dunno about that one.

Seems like a bit of a JFGI… I googled how pandora works and you get links to several articles. Top result (from mine at least) is: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/pandora.htm

Presumably the library numbers are probably an order of magnitude higher since that article was written.

As an aside, there are other services that offer you a much bigger playlist for similar prices (Google Radio and Spotify, for example), but they don’t make use of the Music Genome Project – which tends to give more accurate recommendations, at least in my experience.

The other services don’t break down songs for human analysis; instead, they track user statistics such as “People who liked this song also tended to like these other albums, so we’ll play you a song from that other album.”

But my point is that there just is not the variety that they should have especially with 400,000 songs. If it works like the way they claim then it has got to have the worst RNG imaginable.

I thought the point was that it isn’t supposed to be random - it’s supposed to find music with similar qualities to the music you specified.

If you make your station too specific–too many thumbs up and too many thumbs down–it seems to drastically reduce the set of tracks that meet the criteria, and it starts playing the same 10 songs over and over again because those are the only 10 songs in the 400k catalog that match the criteria.

Rather than adding diversity it seems to reduce diversity. So if you thumbs-up a song it doesn’t seem to try to add more songs like the one you liked, instead it throws out songs that weren’t like the one you liked.

You can add a new seed track to your Sting station that can open up the catalog. Or start a new station, Sting2 and train it differently.

Think of it this way: your song seeds and your thumbs up/down are the equivalent of telling a dating site that you only want blonde 35-year olds within 1 mile of your house who like to wear blue jeans. The dating site can’t give you any specific person on request, but you’ve requested a pretty narrow set of requirements so it’s not a large selection of dates.

In order to train Pandora to play a wider variety, you want to add more song seeds. This is the equivalent of widening your search parameters.

Personally, I’d rather NOT add more song seeds to most of my stations. I’d rather have a very narrowly defined station and then when I want more variety, I tell Pandora to play multiple stations together. So instead of telling my Def Leppard station play Metallica as well, I just train up a Metallica station and then tell Pandora to do a “My Shuffle” with Def Leppard and Metallica. (Help page here)

You might also want to look at Pandora’s Genre stations.

Exactly. It’s a music discovery station.

I have a completely different experience with Pandora than the OP. Instead of trying to create a station about a particular artist, I list a few artists of a genre that I like. I almost never hear the same song twice unless I have given it a thumbs up. I listen to Pandora about 3-4 hours a week, and have 6-7 stations that I play on “shuffle”.

I used to work on site that did recommendations on things such as music. We’d get all the feeds that drive sites like Pandora. There are lots of parameters for music but obviously not all songs from a particular artist map those songs. There are some that are samples of that particular artist that will get recommended more often since they are rated high for that artist. Lots of songs don’t have full data attributes so depending on the algorithm they might not get recommended.

Algorithms are tuned for a variety of reasons. In general you want to have mix of familiar (songs that are very similar to the artist or song in question) and exploration (songs that introduce new artists) and setting the mix is part of what you are trying to accomplish. Pandora may find that people like a lot of familiar and not too much exploration.

My experience with Pandora is that the mainstream songs that get radio play time make very bad seeds. So “U2” as a seed won’t get you any more diversity than what your local top-40, 80s 90s and 2000s pop-rock station will play.

If you use more obscure seeds, you will get more diversity.

I also disagree with the notion that too many thumb-ups or thumb-downs will get you a boring station. Check out my 4 year old station with 5 artist seeds and hundreds of ratings. Seeds are where you need a light touch. I’ve added some seeds that completely ruined the station, even though the station turned me on to that band in the first place, or I absolutely loved the band and it seemed a perfect fit with the other seeds.

Also, it takes effort to craft a good station. Initially, my station played Death Cab For Cutie at least every other song. I dislike most of their music, but they are a great seed for my taste in music. After thumbs-downing most of their library, all the other great stuff got more play time.

Also, it’s probably legal issues as well. Their licence probably allows them to be a radio station, but does not allow them to be a streaming music on demand service. So you can’t ask for “the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine”, but you can tune into the “Beatles channel”.

You’ll notice that on Spotify (for example), you can’t hear a Beatles song at any price. I understand that you also can’t hear AC/DC, Tool, Garth Brooks, and many others. In December, Spotify signed an exclusive deal with Led Zeppelin, which means they are not available on other on-demand services like Rdio. You can get covers of their songs, but none of the originals.

But you can get all of these on Pandora.

The DMCA created a class of compulsory licensing for streaming music services that satisfied certain requirements. One of the requirements is that the listener cannot reasonably predict what song they will hear at what time. (There are also many others.) Pandora has chosen to comply with these requirements. This means that if a record company refuses to license a song to them, they can invoke their compulsory licensing rights and pay the statutory rates. They can even play Led Zeppelin despite their exclusive contract with Spotify.

On-demand services such as Spotify must negotiate licenses with the owners of all the masters that they intend to play. Pandora does also attempt to negotiate, but can fall back on compulsory licensing.

You are on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen. Respect that fact every second of every day.

Out beyond that fence every living thing that crawls, flies or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for jujubees.