Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Music genome explored with Pandora's Steve Hogan

Lorde, broken down by Pandora's music genome - techno robotic...

Steve Hogan from Pandora was in Auckland to talk about Pandora's music genome and how it works. He gave a talk at AUT last night, covering how the various elements are broken down, into 25 different pointers. You can see a few of these in the above photo of Lorde, categorising her song 'No Better'.

Stop Press describe it: "Powered by a catalogue of music analysis called the Genome Project, Pandora's recommendation system feeds you songs based not on genres but rather on similarities between songs from a musicological perspective. This removes the bias given to popular songs, and makes it more likely for passive listeners to hear music that would normally fall under their radar."
Hogan said Pandora currently has 250 million registered users (and 75m unique users a month), and in NZ, they will shortly hit 250,000 users. We are the first territory outside the US to get Pandora. 

Pandora was originally a company called Savage Beast Technology - I may have misheard that as Savage Garden. Hogan noted that the big turning point for Pandora was the arrival of the iPhone in 2007. Now, 75-80 % of listening to Pandora is done on mobile devices. 

Their system has three main selectors that influence playlists - 1, content-based recommender (the music genome), 2, collective intelligence (gained from listeners), and 3, collaborative filter, for when you listen to a song and click on the 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' icons. They are currently adding 10,000 songs a month. On an average month, 95-98% of all the tracks they have on file will get played. 

Hogan talked about the acoustic sessions they've been filming with artists at their offices, called the Whiteboard Sessions. When these artists come to visit, they show them the data they have on file about the artists and the geographic info on where their fans are. 

During the Q&A I asked Hogan if they had any plans to make that data available to bands, to help them decide where to tour, for example, and he said yes, they were working on making that available. 

At last weekend's Going Global Music Summit, I heard one of the panellists, Craig Pearce (manager of the Black Seeds, Phoenix Foundation, and Lord Echo), talk about using data collected via aggregators/ streaming services - for example, say one of his bands is keen to tour America - he can show them they have no streaming of their music there, but have lots of listeners in the UK, so it makes sense to tour there, rather than America, because you already have an audience there. Data makes you smarter. 

Hogan also talked about an artist who made $50,000 from Pandora, and told them "You are feeding my family." Cool story, bro. 

More reading: Spotify CEO: “Artists Will Make a Decent Living Off Streaming In Just a Few Years” [as a mate commented to me, " sounds like a Tui billboard..." ]

Added: Pandora is currently in a court case over refusing to pay royalties on pre-1972 recordings
David Lowery: My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89

Steve's final slide. Because, more cowbell...

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