Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Genetics Of Music

  Back in 1999 I was studying music composition as a freshman in college. In the early 2000's, I learned of an ambitious new endeavor called The Music Genome Project. What exactly is a "music genome", you ask?
The Music Genome Project is an effort to "capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level" using over 450 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them.
[ Wikipedia: Music Genome Project ]

  I immediately fell in love with the idea and couldn't wait to see if they were really going to be able to pull it off. Little did I know that what was coming would revolutionize the way people interact with the music listening experience.

  Six years later, thanks to the work of Music Genome founders Tim Westergren and Will Glaser (and scores of professional musicologists) they launched an amazingly customizable music streaming service called Pandora, and introduced the world to the joy of being able to create and curate your own personal selection of digital radio stations. Pandora learns your taste in music as you give each song it plays a "thumbs up", a "thumbs down", or just let it slide with no input. After just a couple listening sessions, the software begins finding artists and songs it thinks you will like... with an unreal level of accuracy.

  Pandora does not use machine-listening or other forms of automated data extraction. The typical music analyst working on the Music Genome Project has a four-year degree in music theory, composition or performance, has passed through a selective screening process and has completed intensive training in the Music Genome's rigorous and precise methodology.

  While listening, users are offered the ability to buy the songs or albums at various online retailers. Over 400 different musical attributes are considered when selecting the next song to play. These 400 attributes are combined into larger groups called focus traits. There are 2,000 focus traits. Examples of these are rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies, and displayed instrumental proficiency.

  What do I think of Pandora now that I have been using it myself for so many years? I absolutely love it and can't imagine ever being without it.

  Wednesday, September 9th is Pandora's 10th birthday. Over the last decade Pandora has grown into a $3.6 billion company, as it's users have listened to over 74 billion hours of music tailored to even the most eclectic of personal tastes. So anyway- this month I, and more than 250 million other Pandora listeners across the United States, Australia, and New Zealand have occasion to celebrate the awesomeness of being able to discover new music we already like, that we simply haven't heard yet.

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