I’ve been thinking alot lately about the music ‘cool’ factor. What makes one artist ‘legit’ and another a ‘sellout’; one artist a ‘serious’ musician, another a ‘phony’? Why are people sometimes embarrassed about their music tastes? Fiona Apple’s “Tidal” was a masterpiece, but so was “Saturday Night Fever” and Celine Dion’s recording of “My Hear Will Go On.” Cat Stevens is a great songwriter, but so are Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond. So why are they treated so differently? As a practicing musician for many years I came to really appreciate what it takes to write a good song. From the ‘simple’ pop diddy, to the intricate rock opera. I have a deep respect for anyone who is able capture some kind of sound that resonates with an audience, however small. It’s incredibly difficult, and while some songs just don’t appeal to me, I’ll never knock the effort. And if an artist can sell millions of records, that’s nothing but goodness as far as I’m concerned.
I read a great article a few months back written by Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty (GQ Magazine, June 2005). He and his bandmates have apparently become something of a lightning rod for critics. It’s a very personal, honest article and a must read for anyone who cares about music. He talks about the bewilderment of being shunned in social settings and being the subject of constant ridicule in the general media, all because for some reason he’s found himself on the wrong side of cool:
“It’s not easy being in Matchbox Twenty. That’s the part of life that most people don’t know anything about – that when you turn on the TV and there’s someone making fun of people, they could be making fun of you. Whenever that happens I grip my seat and get that familiar dread, that ‘oh shit am I going to be part of that’ dread…”
The vulnerability of his response to being called a ‘watered down sellout’ reads in stark contrast to the vitriol directed towards him by so many people, none of whom had even met him: “I just write the kind of music I want to hear on my car stereo.”
I sometimes wonder what would happen if all music was published anonymously… Maybe with Pandora we can start a new trend of ignoring artist labels and shining the spotlight back on the music.


  1. Alex
    November 19, 2005 at 10:12am
    The musicians, and not the scenesters, want to hear the music they want to hear, regardless of who may have made it... but there are millions of real musicians who nonetheless don't totally empathize with Rob Thomas here. The problem isn't a battle between the big corporate labels and the valiant independent labels, though it can be seen that way. If artists on, say, Yep Roc and Alternative Tentacles shared the airwaves equally with artists on Epic and Capitol, there would still be backlashes against popular musicians. ...the problem is that some musicians have incredible opportunities -- fully paid studio time... advanced editing equipment... support structures... agents and managers... radio exposure... advertising... promotional tie-ins... the ability to make the music they want to hear and get it to people who might want to hear it -- that have traditionally been unavailable to any but the luckiest musicians. They are lucky that someone else liked something in their music enough to become a patron of it. Most people are pleased with most of the music that's presented to them -- thanks in part to the radio programmers using listening research of the type this site does. Unfortunately, this means that most people don't value a creative impulse to explore the vast, fantastic realm of music in search of other things to enjoy. Why should they? I don't say this sarcastically. Why should we have to look for music we like if other people are looking for us? I really don't know. I don't hate the music on the radio. I hate the commercials, and I hate that ClearChannel, purportedly a communications company, don't seem to care what it is they communicate as long as they're making money... but I don't think the music is fundamentally bad. I'd like to think that there is something inherently good in seeking out music that I personally love, perhaps writing it, and not just waiting to be shown it. I don't know that it's not a waste of time... I hope that I will come to hear music worth the effort and inquiry. If I had a shot at actually hearing on my car stereo the kind of music I want to hear on my car stereo, I would have no hard feelings towards Rob Thomas or other similarly lucky musicians. As it is, I'm torn.
  2. Matt
    November 22, 2005 at 12:44pm
    I've been an in the closet Matchbox 20 for a long time. I always thought they got a bad rap, perhaps it was the image that the record company sold, but their music is great. I think that with many groups overexposure causes them to become uncool and that could well be the case with these guys, who knows. I absolutely love Pandora, my ipod collects alot of dust since I found you guys. Thank you so much!
  3. Angela Jackson
    November 28, 2005 at 11:11am
    Very good site! I like it! I just wanted to pass on a note to let you know what a great job you have done with this site..Thanks!
  4. Zaim Bakar Blog
    December 18, 2005 at 6:06pm
    Pandora - Great way to discover new music Give Pandora a favourite artist name or song title, and it’ll create a playlist with simillar music that you’ll like. ...
  5. Cockey
    December 20, 2005 at 9:09am
    I write music too. It's sweet huh? Write Back, C
  6. Rob
    December 26, 2005 at 7:57pm
    whatever this is, its great...i've been listening to it almost non-stop since Saturday...
  7. Cockey
    December 29, 2005 at 2:33pm
    Hey, I like to write song's too even though I usually get stuck like with stories it get's too sticky to write. You know what i mean?
  8. Joe Wilson
    January 05, 2006 at 9:15pm
    Pandora is such a turn on for the musician and the lisener alike. One can even get tibets of information about the music they love or hate, and end the end get a deeper appreciation for it all. congrats are in order.. ;) truly an influence for this musician..
  9. sly
    January 06, 2006 at 9:09pm
    PURE GENIUS keep it up if more you guys should really think about how to get it in peoples car and you would make how should i say this "A KILLING"
  10. Andrea Pretli
    January 09, 2006 at 7:28pm
    Just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying Pandora! I found it today via the BBC Radio Two 'Website of the The Day' feature and within a short time I've become hooked! The clarity of the music reception is really good and I love the thumbs up or down feature on the music being played. Keep up the good work, and thank you! Andrea

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