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27th-Mar-2008 12:05 pm
Someone on my FList turned me on to Pandora which is a collection of ... radio stations that you can seed with whatever or whomever you want to.

I have mixed feelings about it. Some things it does very well, but it falls down (perhaps understandably) on others.

(+) I seeded one station with Stan Rogers, and they've played some songs by artists either whom I've not thought of in quite a while, or whom I've actually never heard of.

(1/2) I tried to seed one with Flanders & Swann, and they played some non-funny English vocalist, and never played F&S, so I deleted that one, seeding another with Tom Lehrer. I've gotten some pretty funny stuff -- including F&S (go figure!) but it doesn't understand that I want funny/wry/cynical.

(1/2) I seeded an Elvis Costello station -- I'm moving interesting Rock into that one when they appear on my folk stations. I seeded a station with Wreckless Eric, and have been trying to populate it with Stiff artists, and it's doing okay, but about half the tunes don't belong, and some of the ones they play I don't like.

(1/2) I populated one station by requesting the Boomtown Rats. Unfortunately, they aren't yet playing the older stuff that I like better, and I only really like about half of the other stuff that it stick in.

(-) Since they'd recognized the B-Rats, I tried to try them out on Klark Kent (or however he spells his name) -- I have a single by him, so I only recognize 2 tunes. They actually recognized the name -- and have been playing a lot of songs that are "similar"... but after listening to about 50 songs on that channel, while I liked a lot of them, none of them were KK. I may try again, or I may delete this one.

(+) Tried a Martha & The Muffins tune -- and they have actually pulled some very cool songs -- most that I didn't recognize -- into this station.

(1/2) Back when the music sharing craze started, NPR was saying that "You can find ANY album/song you want out there" -- I was never convinced, but decided to try it out here -- I looked for Rosy's Bar and Grill. Nope -- they found a few songs with similar names, but hadn't heard of the group. I tried the Womenfolk. Nope. Ok, how about someone more recent and more popular -- Deidre McCalla -- haven't heard of her either. How about someone with a more distinctive name: Lavender Jane Loves Women. Nope. Hmph. Finally went for Malvina Reynolds. That one worked. And I've been trying to train it to play me female vocalist music. -- and have experienced limited success. Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, interspersed with Peter, Paul & Mary and a few dozen groups I've never heard of.

My analysis is that it is not (yet) up to my particular eclectic taste (yes, I _do_ want a Womenfolk and a Stiff Records and a Flanders & Swann channel!) but that it is a really cool toy/tool.
27th-Mar-2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
They have heard of Kathy Mar, though.
27th-Mar-2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
That's good to know. Wonder if she'll magically appear on one of my channels or if I'll have to go hunt her up. Thanks for the info.
27th-Mar-2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
You can not only add people to your channels, you can add specific songs.

Try making a station for the kind of funny you want by putting in 4 or 5 specific songs, preferably ones that have varying musical styles. Then say "I don't like this" or "belongs in a different station" liberally. Maybe that will work better than just the artist.

I don't KNOW, but I strongly suspect, that every time they get a request that they can't match, it goes into a data base of "music to look for". So I keep putting in people I want them to know about, even when I will be surprised if they find them. Not that I manage to listen to my Pandora stations much...but when I do...
28th-Mar-2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah -- they say that they'll hunt. Of course, I spell poorly when I'm dealing with "an artist I heard 30 years ago..." so I hope they can figure out the right one. :-) I do say "belongs in a different station" quite often.

I use opera, and just leave a tab to Pandora. So when I come in, once I open Opera, music starts playing... in my headphones. Eventually I hear it and put them on.
27th-Mar-2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
wheee! someone else who's heard of the Womenfolk!

Mum had (and I think I have it now, although I'm not sure where that vinyl went) their first (only?) album. You know, after hearing Rickety-tickety-tin as a 'straight-but-somewhat-ironic' folksong, hearing Tom Lehrer do it was a bit of a surprise. (Mum collected Lehrer, too.)
28th-Mar-2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
Ooooh. Didn't know they did that -- I only heard stuff on the radio or what my mum recorded from same. I'm thinking an eponymous song, and one I'm not remembering now -- somewhat "spiritual" as I recall... And a few of Malvina Reynolds' tunes. (Turn Around?)

BTW, While I'm generally enormously busy, I do have my turntable set up (although covered in the last 2 or 3 years worth of tax forms and other junk) right next to my puter. And I've digitized both vinyl and tape, so I should be able to figure out how to do that again. If you find your vinyl, I'd be happy to create you a CD from it. (I'll probably steal a copy en route... This has got to be so out of print that that's not too terrible.)

27th-Mar-2008 10:42 pm (UTC) - Lucia @ Pandora
Hey mbumby -

Thanks for trying out Pandora!

wyld_dandelyon is right, it's often a better experience to start a station from a song or a set of songs...the resulting station will be more specific to your tastes. As you add feedback to the station, it will become more personalized.

We can only play 4 songs from a given artist during a 3 hour period, due to licensing issues. As a result, you might not hear the artist you started the station from quite as often as you'd like. That being said, Pandora is a music discovery service; we hope you can find Pandora useful in expanding your musical horizons!

If there are great artists or songs that you guys look up in Pandora and don't find, feel free to email suggest-music at pandora dot com with those suggestions and we'll be happy to look into their CDs.

Here's Kathy Mar:

Lucia, from Pandora
28th-Mar-2008 01:03 am (UTC)
Thanks for writing about Pandora. I've seen mentions of it elsewhere, and your post reminded me to check it out.

After a couple of false starts, I decided I was in the mood for Big Band jazz. The "station" went a bit askew from what I consider BBJ, but in general I got what I wanted to listen to.
28th-Mar-2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Glad to help.

I'll have to dig deeper as to how to seed a particular station with more than one pick -- but the other (anonymous) response on how to suggest new people/bands/groups/music is likely something I'll use.

Heh... There was a NJ Bar band with one album (T. Roth) and then my HS Barbershop quartet... Although I'll bet they only do things that have a CD root.
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