Category Archives: Awesome Beats

How to Get Pandora to Play Exactly What You Want & Nothing You Don’t

Pandora booth
CC BY-NC Flickr user: niallkennedy

I think it would be fair to say that Pandora is like, the grandaddy of online streaming internet radio music players, right? I know I’ve been using it since ’05 or something–way before it was positioned as the uber-successful commercial enterprise it is today–and it has always been a service I lovelovelove.

But if you never really thought to look into how Pandora’s music selection mechanism works, you may not be getting the most accurate recommendations for your stations.  In my experience, generally Pandora is servin up songs that fall into the same genre as the artist or tag I started a started a station with.  But there are times when I am stopped dead in my tracks at the bizarr-o noises streaming into my ear-holes.  Like, WTF Pandora?  Your little “algorithm” is friggin possessed.

Enter my husband Jeffrey.  Apparently, he has perfected the feedback method in order to teach Pandora exactly what to play.  I’m still testing out his method, but he swears by just this one rule:


And really, it makes sense.  Pandora’s algorithm is based on 400 “attributes” that categorize a song’s genre, tempo, syncopation, and the like.  Whenever you rate (thumbs up/down) a song on one of your stations, Pandora doesn’t really know what it is about that song that you like.  So it just guesses based on other songs you’ve rated and makes a recommendation for a song with some of the same attributes.  It’s an algorithm, duh.

But if you are the type of listener who only “thumbs up” a song (or god forbid, never rates anything), all you are doing is giving Pandora a wider and wider set of attributes from which to make it’s recommendations.  If all you do is “thumbs down” songs, over time you will teach Pandora exactly what it is you don’t like about certain songs.  Ultimately, you will end up with a narrower variety of artists on your stations–and a MUCH greater likelihood that the songs played accurately meet your musical tastes.

If you are super-picky about your tunes or want your Pandora stations to be as accurate as possible, all thumbs down is the way to go.

xo Em