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. Michael-Forest
    May 24, 2006 at 5:01pm
    I mean absolutely no offense, and I really like Pandora, but: WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? Okay, what I mean by that is why is Pandora built so counter-intuitively? When I (or most people, I expect) give a song a thumbs up, it is because: a) we want to hear that song more b) we want to hear more music like it (including more music by the same artist, of the same genre, etc.) The application: If I am giving a station a lot of thumbs up, it is because I like what it is currently playing and what it to play more similar music. To me, it means "I approve of what you're doing here very much. Keep doing it." My expectation is that if I give a station a lot of thumbs (up and down), it's going to get a VERY good idea of what I like and don't like, and stick to what I like and avoid what I don't like. It is not, in my mind, a license for Pandora to play whatever it feels like. I expect that my expectations will be those of most users. Much better to change the way Pandora handles music approval & selection than to force people to learn a system that is counter-intuitive and frustrating. What I'd like to see Pandora doing is taking all of the music I've given thumbs up to, seeing what they all have in common, taking the music I've given thumbs down too, seeing what they all have in common, and keeping to the music I like, and avoiding the stuff I dislike, trying to figure out what the common threads of it all is, and then honing in on that. What are the most common elements of liked songs? Try to find songs that has as many as possible (or, to be more complicated [please, yes!], what are the most common combinations of elements that are found in liked songs?) Stick to those, and avoid unwanted elements/combinations of elements. I expect that if Pandora was doing this, giving a thumbs up to similar songs would help hone a station (and giving a thumbs down would also do so). Particularly for people like me who keep stations more focused than simply "songs I like" (one generally softer, one generally harder) While possible that a station would change and broaden or shift over time this way, it's more likely to simply be a shift towards music I more consistently like, or a broadening to try to find music I seem to consistantly like.
    Reply
  2. gorman
    May 24, 2006 at 5:19pm
    That's interesting... that's the exact opposite to how I thought it would work. I thought if you added more artists it would further refine the kind of music you wanted to listen to.
    Reply
  3. ObiWanKeenobi
    May 25, 2006 at 8:20am
    I'll tell you what option I'd really like for honing a station's sound. I'd like to be able to favor specific elements of the music genome that songs share. That is, when I click on "why did you play this song?" and it tells me "a prominant flute part," I'd like to be able to approve that reason specifically. The problem is that by seeding a station with even only one song, I can't hone exactly what element of that song I'm looking for more of. I would have to thumbs-down 100s of songs to get the essential elements of a station I want to play more.
    Reply
  4. Richard Cooper
    May 25, 2006 at 9:31am
    Didn't I say in a previous blog comment that adding songs and thumbs up seems to have no effect on quality of song selection and thumbs down seem to cause my favorite songs to disappear from the playlist? Well, if not, I was definately thinking it at least. Bob-Tuba's revelation seems to explain this behavior completely. Like Bob-Tuba and Michael-Forest and gorman, I too was under the impression that the purpose of feedback was to improve Pandora's knowledge of what music I like and don't like. However, it seems that thumbs up are equivalent to adding a song to a station and thumbs down simply remove similar songs from a station. So if thumbs up aren't really feedback at all, but simply a shortcut to "add a song to this station," then how does Pandora know which of the attributes of the songs that I thumb down are actually ones that I like? This is a problem because those songs should be similar in many ways to what I like, otherwise they shouldn't have played at all. Without a true "thumbs up" to say "this is the combination of attributes that I like" it would seem that Pandora is left to simply exclude from the station any songs that would play on a station created for the song that I thumbed down. But...Pandora thinks that song is similar to what I like, and so a lot of songs that I like would play on that station. So adding songs and thumb ups wouldn't affect station quality because the songs added to the station would simply be whatever would play on individual stations created for each song added or thumbed up, which on average is going to have the same ratio of likes to don't likes, and thumbs down will reduce the quality by removing some of the songs that I actually like from the station. So it would seem that whatever you get when you first create a station is as good as it is going to get. You might get a better station if you created a station with the wrong song for you and thumb up a better choice, but if you create one with your favorite song, then any thumbed up song is going to be a less than favorite, and when its similar songs are added, quality of song selection is reduced. This makes my experiences make a lot of sense. If Pandora isn't really analysing my feedback but simply using it to compile a playlist then it can't learn what I think makes a song similar or different. It's simply making a playlist based on what it thinks makes a song similar or different. That can easily work well for the majority of people, but unless everyone is the same, it won't work for everyone.
    Reply
  5. Lucia @ Pandora
    May 25, 2006 at 11:58am
    Yes! You guys have got it right. Feedback hones your stations and feedback adds more songs in the styles you are indicating. Keep in mind too that I have only scratched the surface here; there's more subtle things at work as well. Our mission is to play music that you'll love; to help you discover more music that you'll love. Your "thumbs" feedback is a critical element in that; we'll continue to refine how we're using it.
    Reply
  6. Ylrick
    May 28, 2006 at 1:14am
    I'd like to be able to choose the language I wish to listen to. For example, if I make a station with Francis Cabrel or Lara Fabian, it will play French music from these artists, but mostly English music to discover. Same thing with Spanish music. The language often matches the mood of music I wish to listen to. Thanks!
    Reply
  7. Bob-Tuba
    May 29, 2006 at 11:49am
    Lucia, I'm sure I speak for more than myself when I thank you *wholeheartedly* for your feedback! Now, back to the search for *real* understanding. (1) You wrote, "thumbs-upping a song, the way it's currently configured, will ... add ... anywhere from zero to a hundred new songs." That looks a little like an FAQ that lets us know that, "Typically adding one song adds over a hundred songs to the station." http://blog.pandora.com/faq/index.html#18 This makes me wonder if thumbs-upping a song has the same effect as adding the song. However, you also wrote, "there's more subtle things at work as well." This would explain why, when I deleted all the thumbs-ups from my "More Favorites" station, the station didn't just get smaller or more "tightly controlled," but it got *less* 'honed' -- or, as I prefer to think of it: dialed in. (2) Now, for the million dollar question: Scenario: I hear a song that I really like on one of my stations. I don't want to sit on my hands. I like the song so much that I really want to let Pandora know. (How can I let Pandora know what I want to hear, if I don't let it know what I like?) Yes, I want to tell Pandora to play that song more often, and that I would be happy to hear songs that are like it more often too. However, my reason for wanting to provide this feedback is to *hone my station*. I have a carefully crafted station, and I want it to be even *more* carefully crafted. I don't want my station to be "too" varied, nor do I want it to play "too many" different styles. Does your blog post indicate that, if I thumbs-up the delightful song, my station will stray? I don't mind it if the station reaches out in another direction. Indeed, I like pop/rock, jazz with driving lower brass parts and Tchaikovski, and I want to hear all of what I like. Can I tell Pandora: Play this song more often -- and add more songs that are like it by all means. But why not then delete zero to a hundred songs that are *least* like my thumbed-up and added songs, and *most* like my thumbed-down songs? Finally, feel free to adjust the *frequency* of play of each song to match my feedback and added songs (if you can). (For example, from my feedback, Pandora should be able to tell that I want it to play T'Pau's Heart and Soul *more often* than Tchaikovski's Symphony No. 4.) Go ahead and play "a whole slew of" pop/rock, but don't *stray* in any other way than the ways that my feedback and added songs indicate. That would totally hone my station! Maybe there should be two different thumbs-up choices: Thumbs-Up #1: "Play this song, and songs like it, more often -- AND make my station more varied.. and stray away!" Thumbs-Up #2: "Play this song and songs like it more often, but do NOT stray. Just become more honed while simultaneously staying just as tightly controlled as you are now, if not *more* tightly controlled." In fact, why not let us directly control how varied or tightly controlled our stations are? Want more variety? Adjust the variety extent control!
    Reply
  8. 24may66
    May 30, 2006 at 3:48am
    I agree with Szilvia: it would be better to have a 5 level (or at least 3) rating system, so that the user can 'fine-tune' his stations in a better way. Giving a song more 'stars' would mean 'Play this and other songs like this more often', and less would mean 'Play it again, but more ocasionally', similar to what Bob-Tuba commented earlier and called 'the frecuency'.
    Reply
  9. ObiWanKeenobi
    May 30, 2006 at 6:56am
    I agree that the main problem I have with the feeedback system, as it is, that narrowing a station's sound is difficult. Unfortunately, it appears that the only way to do this is with thumb-downs. Lets say I want a station that plays a lot of funky stuff, but I don't like horn sections. In an attempt to generate a station with the sound I want I would have to eliminate many groups that have the funky sound I'm looking for because some of their songs have horn sections. Is there any way I could hone my stations using the elements of the music genome directly? It seems like several people have asked for this kind of control. Is something like it in the works?
    Reply
  10. Kathy K
    May 30, 2006 at 2:30pm
    I like the 'advanced mode' idea. I've got several stations with a LOT of thumbs up and thumbs down. I tend to try for things that seem to be fairly far down on the analysis list - for instance, probably my most-tweaked station is one in which I was trying for folk - but only folk with two-part (or plus) vocal harmony. It would have been a lot easier to get if I could have TOLD Pandora that I was looking for vocal harmony and folk influences. Any rate - I like to play with Pandora and see what it does, so I try to do oddball things like that. Can be fun - and I did eventually get an excellent folk station out of it. WITH lots of vocal harmony...
    Reply

Please complete all required fields.
Required fields marked with *. No worries, your email address will not be published.
Leave a reply