FastCo Labs article reveals how Pandora continuously experiments and tweaks programming

Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Fast Company Labs has a fascinating article that reveals the extent to which Pandora experiments and researches how its audience reacts to different variables in the way it creates its playlists -- with the aim of increasing the rate at which users return to the service.

[By the way, if this sort of thing interests you, please our coverage of Rhapsody VP of product-content Jon Maples' on the importance of music curation here.]

We really want to encourage you to read the entire piece, but we've pulled out some bits we found particularly fascinating.

According to the article, by John Paul Titlow, Pandora's data scientists regularly divide and subdivide its audience into test groups, then continually tweak how music is delivered to listeners. For instance, they might vary how often songs are repeated, or the ratio of very familiar tunes to new music. Perhaps they'll vary the concentration of artists that are "local" to a listener, or how many "live" or "acoustic" versions of songs a listeners hears. They even monitor how listeners react to music given their geographical location, or the time of day.

Pandora has run thousands of these tests over the years, some months-long, some taking just a few weeks. And they've apparently resulted in some very interesting insights. For example, the webcaster has found that listeners are less tolerant of unfamiliar music while they're at work. So the webcaster has adjusted for this, and now your personal Pandora channel may seem more familiar between 9 and 5, and a little edgier at night or on the weekend.

Or, fans of instrumental music (like most Classical and Jazz) are generally more receptive to new music discovery -- fans of vocal pop music, the opposite. Titlow writes, "The distinction is so pronounced that stations based on instrumental hip-hop will yield more serendipitous moments of discovery than those based on lyric-heavy rap tracks."

Pandora has even tracked how the same listeners may interact with the music differently based on which type of device they're using at the time -- on the web, or a mobile phone, or a Blu-ray player in a home theater.

While much has been made about the origins of Pandora's Music Genome Project -- hundreds of trained music expers dissecting each track and scoring it on dozens of characterists -- it's user data (skips, "thumbs up/down," etc.) that are training the system now. In fact, Pandora listeners create data far faster than its staff of human experts can. And to be able to more quickly ingest new music, Pandora has developed its own "machine listening technology." It merges the computer analysis of music with input from human experts "to create a deeper understanding of the music its service spins."

The article ends with a short bit about applying this intelligence to the dynamics of group listening, and how new technology could enable that. Again, we'd like to encourage you to check out the article here.

RCS, Songza, CBC executives to dicuss online music listening at RAIN Summit Orlando

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 1:30pm

One of the dicussion panels at September 17th's RAIN Summit Orlando will feature industry professionals taking on the topic of online music listeners' habits and behavior. We'll introduce you to three of them today.

The "Streaming Music Trends" will examine popular genres, music recommendation technology, best strategies for social media sharing, audience listening patterns, and more.

Joining the discussion will be CBC Music executive director of radio & audio Chris Boyce. Boyce was behind the launch of CBC Music (here and here), the Canadian Broadcasting Company's digital music service that includes over 50 web radio services (radio networks CBC Radio 2 and CBC Radio 3 dozens of streams devoted to particular genres of music). Boyce (pictured top right) oversees the digital service, plus CBC Radio programming for two national over-the-air networks and 35 local stations across Canada.

Next up on the panel is Songza chief content officer and co-founder Eric Davich. Songza is the webcast service featuring the the oft-imitated Music Concierge (in RAIN here) that features music streams curated for listeners' moods or activities. Davich (left) was director of content for indie online music store and social network service Amie Street, where Songza was initially developed.

RCS Sound Software is the company that provides the world's leading broadcast software over nine-thousand radio and TV stations, cable music channels, satellite radio networks and Internet music sites. RCS president and CEO Philippe Generali will also take part in the "Streaming Music Trends" panel.

In 2003, Generali created a new RCS division called Media Monitors for market research that employs RCS fingerprinting technology with several data production centers around the world. Generali was the driving force behind the U.S. music research index, Mscore and the listening analysis tool, Audience Reaction.

We'll soon announce more speakers for the dashboard discussion panel, as well as other panels and presentations for RAIN Summit Orlando. The event will also feature a keynote presentation from Entercom Communications president/CEO David Field, and the presentation of the fourth-annual RAIN Internet Radio Awards. RAIN Summit Orlando is an Official Partner Event of The Radio Show produced by the NAB and RAB. See the latest here.

New music service from search and ads giant Google aims to compete with Spotify

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 11:55am

FROM TODAY'S EARLY EDITION: First broken by The Verge (here), now both The New York Times (here) and The Wall Street Journal (here) are also reporting that Google is expected to announce a subscription streaming music service later today at Google I/O, the company's annual developers conference.

The company reportedly has finalized licensing deals with all three major record label groups. The new service will reportedly resemble services like Spotify more than traditional webcast services (like Pandora -- which presumably will be the model for Apple's "iRadio" service that's expected).

The new Google streaming service will reportedly not include a free version. The fee isn't known at this point, but is expected to be similar to that of Spotify and other services like Rhapsody and Rdio, $10 a month.

The new service is actually one of two music services Google reportedly has in the works. Google-owned YouTube is also said to be developing a music service, and negotiations with labels continuing.

AOL Radio will reportedly survive AOL Music closing

Monday, April 29, 2013 - 12:00pm

Word began to leak on Friday afternoon -- via former employees on Twitter -- that AOL Music has shut down.

AOL Music's rock news property Spinner (itself an early pioneer in online radio) will reportedly continue to operate AOL Radio channels. Spinner editor Dan Reilly first began to tweet about staff layoffs early Friday afternoon. AOL Radio program director Thomas Chau later tweeted to clarify that AOL Radio would not be part of the closings.

At one time AOL Radio music streams were featured on CBS Radio's platform. In October of 2011, AOL Radio channels instead became available within Slacker's interface (see RAIN here).

AllThingsDigital reminds us of "Microsoft’s (2006) shuttering of MSN Music, while Yahoo closed the doors on its Yahoo Music services in 2008, as well as shutting down its MusicMatch service the year prior (just three years after acquiring it in 2004 for $160 million)."

Read more from AllThingsDigital here and Mashable here.

Net radio matches AM/FM for music listening among 13-35 crowd, says NPD study

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 12:50pm

The NPD Group looked at music listening in a younger (13-35) age range and found "Internet radio services accounted for nearly one-quarter (23%) of the average weekly music listening time," up from 17% a year ago. This nearly matches the 24% that AM/FM attracts for music listening among this age group.

NPD's Music Acquisition Monitor study ran during the fourth quarter of 2012.

More than half of Pandora and iHeartRadio listeners regularly use their mobile phone to listen, and about 20% of those listen in the car.

Not surprisingly, Pandora is winning the race among services. 39% of the 13-35 set regularly listen to Pandora's free streams (2% subscribe to Pandora's premium service). IHeartRadio attracts 11%, Spotify's free radio service 9% (no other competitor hit higher than the 3% mark).

Net radio accounted for just 13% of music listening in the 36-and-older set in the study.

"Driven by mobility and connectivity, music-streaming services are rapidly growing their share of the music listening experience for teens and young adults, at the expense of traditional music listening methods," said NPD SVP/Industry Analysis Russ Crupnick.

Crupnick will present his company's research this Sunday at RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas. NPD Group's Music Acquisition Monitor study is available here.

Samsung and Nokia both stepping up their mobile music services

Monday, January 28, 2013 - 1:30pm

Samsung is reportedly planning to expand access to its cloud-based Music Hub service to its platform competitors' customers. Meanwhile, Nokia is launching a new premium version of its Nokia Music service for only $3.99 a month in the U.S.

Samsung's "Music Hub is a cloud-based service combining a user's own library with Spotify-style streaming, radio and discovery features. It’s essentially a rival to traditional music stores, online radio, streaming services and cloud locker services all in one package," explains The Next Web.

Nokia's "Music+ will be an ad-free service that lets users skip as many songs as they like rather than being limited to 6 skips per hour. Subscribers will be able to listen to Nokia Mix Radio and add songs to playlists, mark them as favorites, or save playlists to download songs," reports

More from The Next Web on Samsung is here; more from MobileBurn on Nokia+ is here.

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