Analyst Spotlight: Meet Darian Gray – Rapper, Drummer, Pianist & Pandora Music Analyst

Music analysis is the backbone of Pandora’s recommendation engine, the Music Genome Project, which is the magical force that gives our millions of listeners radio stations that are personalized to their individual tastes. Our music analysts are essential to this process, working day-in and day-out to listen to and meticulously analyze every new song that is added to our catalog.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 5.26.15 PM.pngToday, we are profiling Pandora veteran Darian Gray, who joined the company in 2006 shortly after the service launched on the web.

Darian analyzes songs for Pandora in several of our Genomes, including R&B, reggae, pop, gospel and hip-hop. These genres also match perfectly with his musical career outside of Pandora. As a professional drummer, piano player and rapper, Darian is almost always playing music, whether he is on tour with San Francisco-native Martin Luther, playing drums for R&B classic Booker T. Jones or rapping in his band Dynamic.

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Meet the Folks That Keep Pandora Humming

The Technical Operations staff at Pandora loves the Holiday season; the popularity of seasonal music means that December is one of our busiest months of the year. Now that everyone else is getting back to their normal lives, the Ops team is catching their breath and taking a moment to look back at some of the fun milestones from the end of 2012.

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Meet the Minds Behind Pandora’s Holiday Genre Stations

All year, we’ve been giving our music analysts a lot of well-deserved love on this blog but, to celebrate our close relationship with holiday music, we wanted to instead highlight the masterminds behind Pandora’s famous holiday genre stations.

In addition to seeking out new music to add to Pandora, this group of music experts comes to work everyday to organize Pandora’s catalog of more than a million tracks into nuggets of curated musical greatness, usually based on a specific genre (Classic Rock), time period (2000s Hip Hop), mood (Relaxation) or event (Country BBQ or Christmas). Find our full selection of genre stations here.

Our holiday genre station collection offers a wide variety of holiday listening options, from Gospel Christmas to Rockin’ Holidays and everything in between. Here are some fun factoids about the actual people that work very hard to create the stations that fuel your holiday cheer this season:
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Analyst Spotlight: Meet Michelle Alexander, Pandora’s Eclectic Musical Mind

For this month’s Analyst Spotlight, we spoke to one of the “originals”: Senior Analyst Michelle Alexander, who has been listening and analyzing music at Pandora since 2000 when the Music Genome Project was first getting started. She’s fluent in nearly all the genomes Pandora has created, which are categorized by genre, with her specialties being Pop and Classical.

MichelleAlexander.JPGA singer and keyboardist who performs under the name LikeLove, Michelle’s music background began with a vigorous classical training in piano and composition, followed by jazz studies at the New England Conservatory. She then jumped into the indie rock world playing keyboards for Smog. One of the many bands she’s played with recently was a 12-piece experimental jazz ensemble called Kaijuscope. But the accomplishment she’s most proud of right now is her new EP, ‘Talking To Everyone.’, which was released earlier this year.
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Analyst Spotlight: Meet Scott Pinkmountain, Contributing to the Genome From Joshua Tree, California

In the second installment of our Analyst Spotlight blog series, we chatted with another longtime Pandora veteran, Scott Pinkmountain, who has been lending his musical ear to the Music Genome Project since 2004 (yes, that’s just about 8 years!).

Scott joined Pandora before “Pandora” existed, when the company was still called Savage Beast Technologies and the Music Genome Project was being put to use as a recommendation system for brick-and-mortar retail stores. In the same way that the company has morphed over the years, so too has Scott’s contribution to Pandora. After several years of working out of an office, he relocated to a 5-acre plot in Pioneer Town, Calif., slightly outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Like many of our music analysts, Scott preferred to continue his Pandora work in a setting that also lent itself to his creative work, mainly music, writing and songwriting.

IMG_4533.JPGScott began his foray into music at age 15 as many do, by playing electric guitar in various garage bands. But it wasn’t until college that he switched to the saxophone and became immersed in the world of avant-garde jazz and contemporary classical music.

Today, an average day for Scott involves waking up at 4 a.m. to work on his creative projects, followed by several hours of music analysis. He cherishes the flexibility of analyzing remotely and says, “it’s an ideal job for an artist, because you can fit it in whenever and wherever you need to.”

Check out the rest of our conversation with Scott here:
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Analyst Spotlight: Meet Danny Eisenberg, the Music Analyst Who Analyzed Pandora’s 1 Millionth Track

A fun fact that not every Pandora fan might know is that every song on Pandora is listened to and analyzed by an actual human being. We have a department of some 25 Musical Analysts whose job it is to continually enrich and expand Pandora’s catalog of music and comedy. These individuals, all of whom are trained and accomplished musicians themselves, manually analyze each track across up to 450 individual musical attributes.

These attributes cover every detail of melody, harmony, rhythm, form, instrumentation, and vocal performance – representing the musical “DNA” of a track and creating the fundamental data set that drives the Music Genome Project. The process can take anywhere from 15 minutes for a simple 3-minute pop song, to over an hour for a symphonic piece. We think these talented Music Analysts deserve a little extra Pandora love, so we are starting a new blog series to spotlight them on a monthly basis.

DannyE.JPGThe first Analyst Spotlight is an eight-year Pandora veteran who recently analyzed Pandora’s 1 millionth song, a track called “If We Live” by Walk The Sun, which appears on the “Occupy This Album”. With his musical expertise in piano and organ, Bay Area-native Danny Eisenberg has toured internationally and contributed to several bands over the years, including The Mother Hips, Counting Crows, Shelby Lynne, Penelope Houston, Tift Merritt, Jonathan Richman, and Girls. When asked about analyzing the 1 millionth song Danny said, “It’s a fun thing to say, but honestly we all analyze a lot of songs here. It was just the luck of the draw.”

As you can imagine, Danny is full of interesting stories. Here are a few tidbits from our conversation with him last week:
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