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View Full Version : Alright, I gotta call bogus on this one...



rudholm
2006-06-12, 01:03
So I have a Pandora station called "Gary Numan Radio". I've trained it exclusively with late 70s and early 80s punk, post-punk, industrial, and minimalistic new wave. It normally does a great job, giving me a great mix of the old and the new, the well-heard and the obscure. But it's always on-genre. I'll get The Buzzcocks, Gary Numan, Chris & Cosey, The Magnetic Fields, Fischerspooner, etc, etc.

But every once in a while, it will throw in something that I have to assume is something they've been paid to push. The other day I got a Backstreet Boys track, tonight I got a Brittney Spears track. I pulled up the "why did you play this track" selection and got some vague nonsense about "vocal harmony and synthetic..." blah blah blah. Yeah, right.

If I'm going to be paying for this (and I intend(ed) to once my free trial runs out) I really don't want to be fodder for Marketing. I've become very marketing-averse in recent years (call it an allergic reaction due to over-exposure). This could be a deal-breaker for me...

radish
2006-06-12, 06:54
They're not paid to play anything. What's the point, even from a marketing perspective, of playing music you obviously don't like? It's like a heavy metal radio station being paid to play a Bryan Adams record - just pointless.

Pandora doesn't work by categorizing music into genres, it works by identifying traits (the "blah blah blah" you mentioned) and using that to try and guess what you like in music - and of course it's not perfect. You should report the weird songs to them so they can do something about it.

blah509
2006-06-12, 07:04
If I'm going to be paying for this (and I intend(ed) to once my free trial runs out) I really don't want to be fodder for Marketing. I've become very marketing-averse in recent years (call it an allergic reaction due to over-exposure). This could be a deal-breaker for me...

I agree rudholm (the BSBz are always a deal breaker :))

g

jonheal
2006-06-12, 08:37
So I have a Pandora station called "Gary Numan Radio". I've trained it exclusively with late 70s and early 80s punk, post-punk, industrial, and minimalistic new wave. It normally does a great job, giving me a great mix of the old and the new, the well-heard and the obscure. But it's always on-genre. I'll get The Buzzcocks, Gary Numan, Chris & Cosey, The Magnetic Fields, Fischerspooner, etc, etc.

But every once in a while, it will throw in something that I have to assume is something they've been paid to push. The other day I got a Backstreet Boys track, tonight I got a Brittney Spears track. I pulled up the "why did you play this track" selection and got some vague nonsense about "vocal harmony and synthetic..." blah blah blah. Yeah, right.

If I'm going to be paying for this (and I intend(ed) to once my free trial runs out) I really don't want to be fodder for Marketing. I've become very marketing-averse in recent years (call it an allergic reaction due to over-exposure). This could be a deal-breaker for me...
Your even more paranoid than me, and that's saying something. You know, even with "real" genetics, you have the occasional rogue gene. Nothing's perfect.

rudholm
2006-06-12, 09:45
Your even more paranoid than me, and that's saying something. You know, even with "real" genetics, you have the occasional rogue gene. Nothing's perfect.

Haha, yeah, one of the side-effects of having worked for a number of big marketing companies is that the veil becomes lifted and you become able to see Marketing in all its various and sundry obscure and insidious forms. It's horrible.

But back to the topic at hand, I know about the Music Genome Project and how it works, and I just don't buy that this is just noise in the genetic signal. There are a million (probably literally) tracks more "genetically" similar to what I've trained my Pandora station to play than Brittney Spears. Plus, if it's going to make a "mistake" why does that mistake happen to be a very heavily promoted track and not some obscure track?

And there definitely is a reason to play the track --because Brittney's label very well could have bought a "run of network" placement from Pandora, and Pandora could slip that placement into all users' radio stations that feature any popular vocal music.

So yeah, I don't buy it.

ezkcdude
2006-06-12, 10:50
But every once in a while, it will throw in something that I have to assume is something they've been paid to push. The other day I got a Backstreet Boys track, tonight I got a Brittney Spears track.

Hey, I guess I'm not alone. I've had the same experience, and in fact, it happened so often that I don't really use Pandora any more. I would start by selecting Bjork or Radiohead, and end up with Britney Spears and Madonna, not to mention, a lot of hip-hop. It just didn't work for me.

radish
2006-06-12, 11:10
And there definitely is a reason to play the track --because Brittney's label very well could have bought a "run of network" placement from Pandora, and Pandora could slip that placement into all users' radio stations that feature any popular vocal music.

I'll ask again. Why would a label pay Pandora to play Britney (there's only one "t") to a hard rock fan? That would be a complete waste of money. Seeing the amount of targetting information Pandora have about your musical tastes they could be MUCH smarter about it - and that would be the value to the label - play the new Metallica album to a rock fan and save Britney for someone listening to light pop. Random insertion (a) is obvious and (b) is a waste of money.

Besides, this is from their FAQ:



Q: I hear that larger record labels pay for airtime on the radio. What can you say to assure me that radio pandora is totally free of this bias, and thus let me enjoy the music with a clear conscience?

How's this:

We will never, ever take money to play a song or analyze it favorably on Pandora. You can quote us on that!

rudholm
2006-06-12, 11:33
I'll ask again. Why would a label pay Pandora to play Britney (there's only one "t") to a hard rock fan? That would be a complete waste of money. Seeing the amount of targetting information Pandora have about your musical tastes they could be MUCH smarter about it - and that would be the value to the label - play the new Metallica album to a rock fan and save Britney for someone listening to light pop. Random insertion (a) is obvious and (b) is a waste of money.

Besides, this is from their FAQ:

I've worked for one of the major labels (PolyGram) and for several huge marketing conglomerates and I can tell you, this is *exactly* the kind of thing they'd do. They wouldn't stop to think that the audience might not be quite right, they'd see the audience in the broadest of strokes, without regard for the subtlety that differentiates Throbbing Gristle from Britney Spears. They'd see it as market exposure. They'd assume (probably correctly) that a certain number of people will buy that Britney Spears CD after hearing it, despite the genre gap.

I've read the Pandora FAQ, and I saw that question about taking money to play a track. A label may have required them to place certain artists/tracks in a run of network rotation as a condition of carrying any of that label's artists. This is typical record label behavior. So the FAQ answer might be true since they're not "taking money" or it could simply be a lie.

radish
2006-06-12, 12:48
A label may have required them to place certain artists/tracks in a run of network rotation as a condition of carrying any of that label's artists. This is typical record label behavior.
They don't have agreements with individual labels as they're not allowing individual downloads or streams. They'll be licensed through the ASCAP Non-Interactive license for publisher rights (plus, I imagine, whatever similar license BMI has) and through the DMCA Statutory Licence for performance rights. There is no scope for a specific label to opt-out of those agreements or demand more money.


So the FAQ answer might be true since they're not "taking money" or it could simply be a lie.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's correct.

rudholm
2006-06-12, 14:59
They don't have agreements with individual labels as they're not allowing individual downloads or streams. They'll be licensed through the ASCAP Non-Interactive license for publisher rights (plus, I imagine, whatever similar license BMI has) and through the DMCA Statutory Licence for performance rights. There is no scope for a specific label to opt-out of those agreements or demand more money.

Regardless of how the content is licensed (and I'm familiar with the various ways music is licensed) the labels and distributors always find a way to apply legal and/or market pressure when they are motivated enough to do so. I don't know that it's happening, I'm simply unconvinced that it isn't. Pandora is probably a big enough fish for the labels to notice. And all any of us can do at this point is guess.


Or maybe, just maybe, it's correct.

If it is correct, and I created a "music genetic analysis" that confused Throbbing Gristle with Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys, I'd be pretty unhappy with myself.

Either way, it doesn't speak well of Pandora.

Maditude
2006-06-12, 22:23
>If it is correct, and I created a "music genetic analysis" that
> confused Throbbing Gristle with Britney Spears and The Backstreet
> Boys, I'd be pretty unhappy with myself.

I was all set to write up a really snarky "you just can't admit that you might like Back Street Boys, can ya?", but I can sympathize, having heard some utterly ridiculous crap from pandora as well (started out with "Deep Purple", it didn't take too long to veer off into some truly horrid stuff). For the most part, I'd be delighted if Pandora simply had two options:
1) Don't EVER play anything like this (for specific values of "this").
and
2) No gawdamned "growling" vocals. (ie, I *really* like Amorphis, except for their songs with growling, it just ruins it for me).

kdf
2006-06-12, 22:43
I wonder...has it occurred that the way to make progress on the problem
would be to bring this up to Pandora.
Whining/speculating here just seems so passive agressive.
-d

radish
2006-06-13, 08:40
I wonder...has it occurred that the way to make progress on the problem
would be to bring this up to Pandora.
Whining/speculating here just seems so passive agressive.
-d
Well I did suggest that quite some time ago, but there's obviously little point since they're too busy couting their vast pile of cash from EMI bribes :)

tconrad
2006-06-14, 14:11
Hi guys,

I'm the CTO over at Pandora and have been a Slim Devices customer for years and years -- just recently replaced a pair of SliMP3's with new Squeezeboxen.

Here's the scoop: you're hearing Britney or whatever because sometimes our recommendations aren't perfect. That's the whole story. We work hard to get it right, but sometimes we just get it wrong. Every single song you hear is dictacted by mathmatics -- you can't buy your way into the Music Genome or into a playlist. Period.

We are subject to song and artist repetition rules set forth in the statutory licenses in the DMCA but that something that's also true of every other Internet radio service. These rules are called the "performance complement" and say that we cannot play in a three hour period:

* more than three songs from a particular album, including no more than two consecutively

* four songs by a particular artist or box set

We've just recently enhanced our playlist algorithm in a way that we hope will thwart some of this. Here's what we've done: we look for patterns in the aggregate feedback on a particular station. So let's say that we're playing Spears on a Radiohead station. Pretty quickly the Radiohead listeners make it clear that the song doesn't work for them as a group. When enough feedback aggregates we stop playing that song in that context. It takes some time for these effects to kick in for a station, but once it does a lot of these strange matches get pulled automatically. Of course your thumbs down on a song will ban it from that station with one click.

That's it. Honestly. If you hear stuff on your stations that makes you scratch your head and wonder what's going on, drop me a note at tomconrad-at-gmail-dot-com and I'll be happy to chat about it.


Tom Conrad
CTO @ Pandora

rudholm
2006-06-15, 18:21
Hi guys,

I'm the CTO over at Pandora and have been a Slim Devices customer for years and years -- just recently replaced a pair of SliMP3's with new Squeezeboxen.

Here's the scoop: you're hearing Britney or whatever because sometimes our recommendations aren't perfect. That's the whole story. We work hard to get it right, but sometimes we just get it wrong. Every single song you hear is dictacted by mathmatics -- you can't buy your way into the Music Genome or into a playlist. Period.

We are subject to song and artist repetition rules set forth in the statutory licenses in the DMCA but that something that's also true of every other Internet radio service. These rules are called the "performance complement" and say that we cannot play in a three hour period:

* more than three songs from a particular album, including no more than two consecutively

* four songs by a particular artist or box set

We've just recently enhanced our playlist algorithm in a way that we hope will thwart some of this. Here's what we've done: we look for patterns in the aggregate feedback on a particular station. So let's say that we're playing Spears on a Radiohead station. Pretty quickly the Radiohead listeners make it clear that the song doesn't work for them as a group. When enough feedback aggregates we stop playing that song in that context. It takes some time for these effects to kick in for a station, but once it does a lot of these strange matches get pulled automatically. Of course your thumbs down on a song will ban it from that station with one click.

That's it. Honestly. If you hear stuff on your stations that makes you scratch your head and wonder what's going on, drop me a note at tomconrad-at-gmail-dot-com and I'll be happy to chat about it.


Tom Conrad
CTO @ Pandora

As your customer base increases, I imagine you could do regression analyses based on how users rate tracks and group artists. This could combine with your incumbent algorithms to make your service even better/smarter.

Thanks for the response. I'm actually very happy with the service and have recommended it to my friends.

nicketynick
2006-06-16, 06:53
Interesting - to some extent Pandora is morphing into Lastfm. I think somebody speculated this would likely happen in a thread back when Pandora first started up on SN.

mattybain
2006-06-24, 00:03
All very interesting, I much prefer LastFM for the very reason that Pandora seems to throw up all this cr*p. However a combination LastFM and Pandora would be a killer.

I still think that personal recommendation (lastfm) will always be better than computer anyalsis (pandora).

rudholm
2006-06-24, 17:42
All very interesting, I much prefer LastFM for the very reason that Pandora seems to throw up all this cr*p. However a combination LastFM and Pandora would be a killer.

I still think that personal recommendation (lastfm) will always be better than computer anyalsis (pandora).

I think they each have their advantages. Personal recommendation is better at keeping Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys away from my ears, but the algorithmic approach is probably better at routing out obscure/novel acts.

I agree completely, whoever figures out a way to effectively combine these strategies would have a definite win on their hands.