Two comments we get now and again here at Pandora headquarters are these:
1. My station is too boring; it doesn’t play enough variety
2. My station is too varied; it plays too many different styles
I am here to tell you that these issues are fairly easy to remedy.
1. For more variety on your stations, add more music!
Click on either ‘Guide Us’ [for the station you’re currently listening to] or on the triangle next to the station name in the left-hand menu [for any station, any time] and choose to ‘Add more music.’
2. For more tightly controlled stations that don’t stray too much, don’t add too many artists, songs, or thumbs ups; every time you add more music your station reaches out in another direction. Me, I like that. You, you may not.
Personally, I’ve got both kinds of stations. Some are vanilla and some are seasoned beyond recognition. The “purer” stations have hardly any station seeds and only a few, if any, thumbs ups. On these “pure” stations I hear some of the same songs repeated over a few days of listening, and I get a more controlled station that actually sticks to a specific style of music. My wildest station, and my favorite, Radio Lucia, has maybe sixty seeds and oodles of individual thumb opinions. It represents decades of musical styles, and many many hours of listening and tinkering on my part. I get lots of surprises. I rarely hear the same song twice, even with weeks of listening.


Adding more music to your station is powerful. You can send your station off in a completely different direction with just a few new songs or artists. Remember, you’re not just saying: I like this song/artist so please play this more often. You’re also saying: play more songs in this style.
As it turns out, you may or may not want to hear more of that style. Maybe you like that artist because it reminds you of skipping classes in high school. (Def Leppard, in my case) Maybe your Dad used to play the artist’s records non-stop while you were growing up. (Oscar Peterson) Maybe their songs remind you of road trips with friends. (Holly Cole) Perhaps someone once sang the song to you as a lullaby? (‘Dear Prudence’ by The Beatles)
There’s all kinds of nostalgic and unique reasons for liking a song or an artist…but that may not mean that you want a whole slew of that style of music to play on your beloved and carefully crafted station! I get teased by our engineers for having such a trigger finger with feedback on my stations. I’m learning to sit still and not compulsively give my opinions to Pandora. I sit on my hands.
But remember, you can always change your station feedback and definition. Review and/or edit your station by going to the ‘Edit this station’ option for any station you built. (again, under the triangle next to your station name in the left menu) From there you can review the artists/songs you’ve added to the station as seeds and review the songs you marked as ‘liked’ and ‘disliked’. Clicking ‘remove’ next to one of these will set the feedback for it back to neutral.
You can also scroll back to rate past songs at any time, even after they’re done playing (as long as you haven’t closed the window yet). If you can still see them, you can still rate them.
Happy tuning!
cheers, Lucia
written while listening to:
Dave Brubeck Radio
(one of my few completely “pure” stations…this one requires no tinkering…just let it play.)

Comments

  1. Butch
    May 18, 2006 at 8:27pm
    Sometimes I'd like to hear other songs whose lyrics are related - same subject matter. Is this possible?
    Reply
  2. Richard Cooper
    May 18, 2006 at 10:22pm
    There are some things I have found do help to create better stations, and if they help me, I think they're bound to help everyone else. 1. Don't create stations from songs that you've never heard Pandora play. It seems that not every song on every album is in Pandora. I assume because it costs a fortune to analyze each song and there's more focus on new artists than on every song by current artists, but regardless of the reason, it means that Pandora may not know the attributes of a particular song you create a station with. In this case it seems to create a station as if you had given it the artist of that song instead, which isn't helpful if you like something specific to that one song. Pandora never plays the songs it doesn't know the particular attributes of, so if you've heard Pandora play a particular song, it's safe to use. 2. Choose two songs to compare every song you give feedback to. Pick whichever two songs are a good choice for you. Usually, on a scale of 1 to 5, I pick a song that's a 3 and a song that's a 4. Then for each song that plays, I ask myself "if I had to listen to one of these songs on repeat all day long, which song would I want that to be?" If the song that is playing is my first choice, I thumb it up. If it is my last choice, I thumb it down. When I first rated songs that way I was surprised at how it changed my decisions. In particular, it seems I was rating punk songs on a punk scale and other songs on another scale. So if a punk song was a really good punk song, it got a thumbs up, even if I liked it less than another song which was a really bad pop song that I thumbed down. Comparing to the same two songs every time ensures that all songs are rated on the same scale. It's great for those nostalgic songs which are fun to hear again, but not something you really like more than what you listen to currently. Hmm, I had another suggestion... What could it have been? Choosing seeds and giving feedback, there isn't much else a person can do. Oh yeah... 3. Don't try too hard to limit a station to a particular sound. I may want a station which plays only upbeat lyrics, but thumbing down every song that has downbeat lyrics seems to tell Pandora that lyrics are all that matters. If Pandora plays a good song that happens to have downbeat lyrics, the best thing to do seems to be to simply let it play it. It's not the worst thing since I do like the song, and thumbing it down seems to tell it I don't like that style of music and so when it does play upbeat lyrics it plays them with some other style of music. If nothing else, it's inevitible that it will play a song with downbeat lyrics that I really don't like eventually, and I can thumb that one down. None of those three make a really big difference in my stations, but they all help a little, and may well help someone who likes Pandora's song selection a lot. As for JJZ's comment about a seed for everything... I'd love to have that. New songs that I don't like are generally more fun to listen to than the same songs I've heard many times which I don't like. I wonder what I might discover as well. I didn't even know that I liked the music that I like now when I began listening to Pandora. I used to listen to Hum and The Get Up Kids, but when Pandora wouldn't play anything I liked, I theorized it was because after six years with only my MP3 collection I had forgotten what really bad music sounded like. So I typed in "Aaron Carter" to be reminded. I hadn't heard anything by him before, I'd only heard that he sucked, but by dumb luck I actually liked his songs. It makes me wonder what other music is out there that I would like if only I ever heard it. I've already tried everything else that I've ever heard really sucks, but without so much luck. I think it would be fun to be able to explore music like that. I tried creating a "random artists" station once, and from that Pandora offered up "various artists" as a possible choice and so I went with that. It kind of worked because it seems a lot of CDs are by "various artists" and were for whatever reason the individual songs were put into Pandora as being by Various Artists. However, the songs seem to be mostly Blues and something like Rap, so it isn't very random. I also think it'd be cool if I could click "add music to this station" and type "upbeat lyrics" or the previously mentioned "busy horn section" and doing so would limit the station to songs with that feature. Then it could just appear in the "songs you added" list and if I got tired of it I could just delete it. It wouldn't require changing the current user interface and it wouldn't be there to confuse listeners who don't care. Perhaps something even easier to do would be to create artificial music data for bogus songs like "Upbeat Lyrics" by The Music Genome Project. Then I could create an "upbeat lyrics" station and add "danceable grooves" and "punk influences" to it and listen to a random selection of songs with those attributes, possibly even fine tuning the other attributes with feedback from those song selections if I wish. Assuming it is something that would work, it seems like it would be easy to do.
    Reply
  3. Udo
    May 19, 2006 at 4:35am
    About the interface: I see two different, conflicitng approaches handling Pandora (call it simple/ advanced). The first is the "laid back, simple, user friendly" approach, that Pandora follows now. I like it, I don't want to give every decision too much thought and rate intuitively. There aren't too much button or links, and the whole interface is very clean. I think this is very important for new users. A cluttered website / interface would have chased me away in the beginning. (btw. I'm a experienced Internet user. But there are so many websites and tools, that I don't have the nerve to install every plug-in and search a website for 20 minutes to get things going...) The second approach that many users here would probably like to see is an "advanced mode". In this mode it should be possible "to dig really deep" if you like to do so. There you could put 20 different buttons to rate every nuance, style, gene, whatever. My idea is to make a switch button to distinguish between "simple mode" and a (possible upcoming) "advanced mode". This way you would satisfy both groups. On the one hand, you can still introduce Pandora to new users in a painless, less irritating way. On the other hand everyone could then decide for themselves if and then they want to be confronted with more details and buttons. What do you think about this?
    Reply
  4. Tom
    May 19, 2006 at 9:39am
    I love the idea that you're trying to build up a new middle-class of musicians. I look forward to a better future for young musicians because of the internet's potential to help bands find their audiences, and I see Pandora helping in that respect. Here are my top 5 suggestions for improving Pandora: 1. Display the song length and remaining time. 2. Shuffle or randomize the songs. If I have a station, but then I add a new artist with a distinctive style (Bob Marley for example), then suddenly I'll get many reggae songs in a row instead of sprinkled randomly throughout. 3. Add a link to find tour information about the artist. If I provide my zip code you should be able to put an icon on the songs of artists that will be performing nearby. 4. Add the ability to fine-tune a station. It would be nice to choose the recording year of the music that plays. For example, I might be nostalgic for the 80's etc. And it would be nice to have a station that features the female singers of jazz. Maybe there should be a way to indicate gender of the singer? Thanks for listening!
    Reply
  5. jay
    May 22, 2006 at 3:34pm
    "Oh Pandora, I adore ya. I implore ye, don't ignore me." (Sue Townsend) There are no bad stations. Just ones that don't like as much as we thought we would. Take for example the "How the heck is this song related?" question. Well, if we accept the premise that music has genes, we can look at some of the people with whom we share genetic material and ask the same question: "What the heck are YOU doing in MY family tree?" It is a mystery that cannot, and perhaps should not, ever be solved. In general, I counsel patience, especially if you are new to this service.* I have enjoyed those "Ah-ha!" moments when I understand (or think I do) why the program behaves a certain way. Unless my first theory is right and it just reads my mind. Finally, as someone else has said: Please, please, take a moment to read the FAQs. *This comment should not be taken as a jab at "newbies," or anyone else for that matter.
    Reply
  6. rod
    May 23, 2006 at 10:01am
    It seems like some songs are analyzed according to their musical content and some not. I added some Lyle Lovett songs to my station that are clearly not country in style e.g. "all my love is gone" - blues. But I get straight ahead country type music as a result. I'm sure that evaluting and cataloging individual songs must be a monmumental task! However with an artist like Lovett who exhibits so much more variety in his music than his "genre" (country/rock) might indicate you almost have to. Just wondering if some songs are categorized by a general "artist's style" rather than the song's individual musical characteristics?
    Reply
  7. Bob-Tuba
    May 23, 2006 at 1:24pm
    When I first read the FAQ's, I thought I understood that: * Adding music establishes the playlist (or "mix"). * Thumbing Up a song makes it and songs like it play more often. * Thumbing Down a song deletes it from the playlist and causes songs like it to play less often. * I never got the impression that Thumbing Up a song adds or deletes songs from the playlist (mix). I had read this in the FAQs: >> * "Thumbs Up" makes that song and songs that sound like that song play more often . . . . Giving a song a Thumbs Up will cause Pandora to play that song, and songs that sound like it more frequently. It doesn't take many Thumbs Up to move a station towards a particular sound you like. You can give Thumbs Up to songs that are very different from each other. If you do this enough, you can expand your station in several different directions. << http://blog.pandora.com/faq/index.html#88 Now, after reading your blog entry, I'm getting the impression that Thumbing Up a song changes the playlist/mix by adding certain songs and removing others from it. You've written in this blog entry, "For more tightly controlled stations that don't stray too much, don't add too many ... thumbs ups; every time you add more music your station reaches out in another direction." . . . . "I've got both kinds of stations. ... The 'purer' stations have ... a few, if any, thumbs ups." From the viewpoint of my initial impression, thumbs ups wouldn't cause a station to become less tightly controlled -- indeed, they would cause a station to be *more* tuned in. The station wouldn't become *less* pure, but rather *more* pure, as Pandora would gain more information about what I wanted to hear (at least, more often). When I read your blog entry, I went back and deleted all of the thumbs ups in one of my stations, because I didn't want Pandora to be overly influenced by my thumbs ups. My station was practically reset! It was as if it had lost its way. It seemed to have much less of an idea of what to play. I have begun to retrain it again, carefully, sitting on my hands when necessary. Please let us know if thumbs ups change the mix (or giant playlist). Do "thumbs ups... add more music"? Or do thumbs ups merely change the odds that songs with musical characteristics that are similar to the thumbed up songs will play more often than songs that do not. adTHANKSvance (and thanks for processing the music requests I made when I first started listening to Pandora. Some of them are already in the database!), Bob-Tuba
    Reply
  8. Mojo LA
    May 24, 2006 at 8:22am
    I too enjoy the variety stations and the more pure stations. My only issue is that the big mashup station isn't really. It's a "pure" station for four or five tunes, then it switches to a different "pure" station. The whole point is that I don't want to dwell on a style when I want variety.
    Reply
  9. rkw
    May 24, 2006 at 10:02am
    I know it goes against the general principles of Pandora, but, I would like to have a "Don't Play" list. The algorithm accidentally picked a song from the Beach Boys and it totally ruined my day. Is there a way to get the album name to be displayed?
    Reply
  10. Lucia @ Pandora
    May 24, 2006 at 3:00pm
    Hey Bob-Tuba: Yes, thumbs-upping a song, the way it's currently configured, will almost always add more music to your station. Depending on how different the song is from the current state of feedback on your station, anywhere from zero to a hundred new songs could start cycling through. Thumbs up will not delete anything, only add. There's never any set playlist, and any feedback you give morphs your station. The number of songs that play and the specific songs that play are always in flux. Also, we're adding thousands of songs every week, which will enter into play on people's stations as we add them. rkw: To ban a song, thumbs down the song. To ban an artist, thumbs down two songs by that artist. (these are station-specific!) Click on the song name for more song and artist info! (More to come soon, on this front.)
    Reply

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