What is Pandora Radio&Reg;?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Pandora Radio® is an internet website that provides user-specific music playlists based on personal preferences. Created by a group of technology-savvy musicians calling themselves The Music Genome Project, Pandora works based on mathematical algorithms that break down a song into components and rate its similarity to a song the user enjoys. Pandora is considered an enormous achievement in music analysis by many, and has grown in popularity enormously since its release in the early 21st century.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A song has dozens of individual components that makes it different from any other piece of music. Pandora Radio® works by analyzing each song by its individual pieces, such as rhythm, instruments used, harmonic scheme, musical key, and lyrical themes. All in all, The Music Genome Project has over 2000 different categories by which a song can be measured. When developing your own Pandora station, these categories are used to find songs that closely match your preferences.

Pandora Radio® is currently free to users, and survives mostly off of on-site advertising by outside companies. Users are also provided links to purchase the songs or albums they listen to via an mp3 downloading service like iTunes or Amazon. Fans suggest that this service promotes the image that Pandora Radio is not exploiting music artists but rather is a tool for exposing an audience to music they may enjoy but have not or would not discover on their own.

To start a Pandora Radio® station, you must first choose a song or artist that you enjoy. The station will then play an example of a song by the artist chosen, to which you can give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” This option allows the station to refine your choice, as an artist may have very different styles within their own music. Pandora will then play additional songs that display similar qualities, such as subtle harmonies, acid jazz influences, or folk song roots. You can choose to give these a thumbs up or down rating as well, each time refining your preferences to create your perfect radio station.

Pandora Radio® has understandably run into some copyright issues, due to their use of thousands of songs by different artists. Due to court rulings, Pandora is only available in the United States, although the company is in talks to open its business to the European market. Because the service is free and based primarily on advertising, there is some speculation that Pandora will not service the current economic recession without vastly altering its operating procedures and charging users to use the service.

Pandora has expanded into a variety of different uses since its inception. In addition to an occasional downloadable podcast called Pandora Podcast®, applications now exist that allow you to use the service on Apple iPhones®. The popular social-networking website Facebook also allows members to add Pandora stations to their personal profile, a move many consider responsible for a tremendous increase in Pandora Radio® users.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


Thanks for the article. For those who live outside US and want to access Pandora radio, you can use UnoTelly as I do to get around the geo block.


Can Pandora be used to find like tracks in my own music collection?

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