Dig into the Music Long Tail – Pandora

Company: Pandora (formerly Savage Beast Technologies)
Launched: July 21 (private alpha)
Public Beta: Within two weeks
Employees: 50 (including 30 musicians)
Location: Oakland, CA


Do you love music? Are you the kind of person who’s pissed off because your iPod only holds 60 gigs? If you are, stop reading this, click over to Pandora and request an invitation to their private alpha right now. Then come back and read the rest of this post.

If you don’t agree that this is the coolest application you’ve seen in a long while, re-read this post over and over until you agree, because you are wrong. I am in love with Pandora. It’s like the Internet was invented so that Pandora could be.

I met with Tom Conrad, Pandora’s CTO, today at Bar Camp and he gave me a private demonstration. He’s presenting to the group today at 5 pm as well.

What is it? It is a music recommendation engine and player and it is the future of discovering the long tail of music.

Pandora is a technology based solution. They spend about 20 minutes analyzing the identity of a song (“everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony”) – and they’ve analyzed 300,000 of them (10,000 artists) over the last five years. See Pandora’s Music Genome Project – a five year project involved scores of musicians to analyze music:

On January 6, 2000 a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.

Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records – it’s about what each individual song sounds like.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists – ranging from popular to obscure – and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world.

And…it works!

Once you’ve registered, you simply create a “channel” by typing in an artist or song name. It may ask for clarification if it has multiple matches, then it will start streaming the song (or one of the artist’s songs if you’ve chosen an artist) at 128k (great quality). Here’s the good part. Click on a button and you can find similar music by other artists. I created a Nirvana category. Soon Pandora was playing “The Man Who Sold the World” (a great song”). By clicking forward, Pandora then played “Wings of the Throne” by Guided by Places, “How’s it Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind, and then “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains. Perfect.

Click on any song and buy it on iTunes or Amazon.

Here’s a secret way to get an instant invite into Pandora (I think you deserve it for reading this deep into the post). Pandora allows you to share your channels (and even has a most popular list). Click on my Nirvana Channel and you will be prompted to sign up, bypassing the invitation requirement.Correction. If you would like an invitation to Pandora, please email me at editor@beta.techcrunch.com and I will send one to you. I have 25 12 3 none left (where were these people when I was looking for a little love on consumating :-) ). Update: If you email me, I can still get invites from Pandora, but it will take a few hours to turn it around. I can’t deal with the volume. I’m done with invites. You’re on your own.

One last tidbit that Tom shared with me – Apparently, sometimes people like certain kinds of music that they think is pretty darn fringe/indie/hard core. And sometimes, when they look at related music after Pandora has put it through an objective technical analysis, they see stuff by britney spears/hilary duff/[insertcraphere]. Pandora isn’t broken. The listener is. :-)

I am going to be posting a ton more on this over time.


10 hours free for every new user
$3 per month after that

Update: Scoble loves this too:

Tom sent me an email explaining what it does: “Pandora is a “music discovery service” designed to help you find and enjoy music that you’ll love. It works like this: you give us the name of an artist or song and we instantly create a “station” that plays songs that share musical characteristics with the artist/song you entered. From there you can fine-tune the station to your tastes by giving us feedback on the individual tracks we play. You can make up to 100 unique stations that play all kinds of music – Pop, Rock, Jazz, Electronica, Hip Hop, old, new, big names, and small acts — over 300,000 songs from more than 10,000 artists. Pandora is entirely web-based; you won’t need to install any software to start listening.”