Karmazin argues consumers crave programmed content, not endless choices

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Issue Date: 
May 8 2012 - 11:35am

From Issue:

Web music philosophies"At a time when more and more content is available and consumers continue to be time-constrained, there are still only 24 hours in a day. We believe curated content... is more important than ever and will be even more important in the future as even more content becomes available especially on the Internet."

So said SiriusXM CEO Mel Karmazin recently. The quote got Digital Music News thinking, as it looked at web music services and their approaches as to music library size vs. curation.

"Others are buying that philosophy [of the importance of curation]," writes DMN, pointing primarily to Pandora. The webcaster has a music library of "just" 900,000 tracks from 90,000 artists -- "a number that has remained flat over the past few years."

On the other side of the table, there's the likes of Spotify, with millions of tracks in their libraries but relatively little curation. But Spotify's "fantasies involve curating apps," writes DMN, "not just endless spreadsheets of music."

Indeed, as RAIN has reported (here and here), Spotify and its on-demand competitor Rdio are both developing some sort of Pandora-like Internet radio service. It's not hard to see why. DMN points out that SiriusXM has 22.3 million subscribers ("roughly seven times the global subscriber base of Spotify"), while Pandora just announced they attracted more than 51 million active listeners in April 2012.

"As much as the Spotify OS needs a massive and comprehensive catalog to make this work, the future may belong to those who effectively deliver less," concludes DMN (here).

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My example of classical

My example of classical listening preferences shows only one part of the larger picture.

I've even found that the 'smooth jazz' channels may not bring up 'deep tracks' that might fit what I'm wanting to hear. I set one up on Pandora, but for whatever reason, it only delivered 'the hits'.

There are all kinds of small genres that get missed too. One music site and I forget the name of it, that was big before Pandora came along and was basically a music download aggregator for bands, etc., claimed to have divided things up into 315 different musical styles. That site was one of the successors to mp3.com I believe.

Now as to Pandora and classical, they can't do it all yet due to the fast growth and costs, but some stats will do.

In 2007 they launched the classical genre, took a while but it was worth the wait for many. That first upload was like 10,000 CDs worth. Very good for a first start, many classical stations had to start with far less to get started before the Internet days.

By comparison, my local classical music station has 25,000 CDs in its library to draw from. 'Classical 24' out of the Twin Cities has 50,000 CDs, and Beethoven which is a network run by WFMT, has 75,000 CDs.

True, it will take some time for Pandora to catch up, after all, they have so much more in every genre to catch up on, but for all genres, the wait will be worth it.

As to my suggestions: Knowing the need of Pandora to reach all listeners and cover all genres, I have suggested CDs featuring largely lesser known composers from about 1700-1900, and those to add variety and interest to the classical genre. I do take Pandora's mission of providing music discovery to heart.

In fact, it will take Pandora some time to be fully mature in its music library, but to be fair, they've done a very good job so far. I just wish there was some way for them to be able to fill things out a little more in other genres besides the pop and rock ones. And yes, fill some big holes in the pop and rock genres as well.

First an update relating to

First an update relating to the Pandora number. In 2010 I saw a figure of 750,000, so they have added 150,000 tracks in the last two years.

However, 'curation' also shows the biases of the service owners. I have been suggesting various classical albums to Pandora via their email address set up for that purpose, and only two albums were added so far out of maybe about 30 suggested. One contained a symphony by Kalliwoda (contemporary of Mendelssohn), the other was an early 20th Century composer Dora Pejacevic who died at 38 while giving birth. She left 57 works, a label in Germany is recording it all, two CDs came out so far and Pandora added that first one last year.

So Pandora's curators are slanted towards pop and rock genres, forgetting the jazz, classical, and other less common genres, and forgetting how classical can aid its corporate-supported mission of music education, and thus they have simply chosen to sweep these other genres under the rug rather than build them up. Rockers come a dime a dozen, classical is something that everything else dovetails off of, and if you understand at least the basics of classical, you understand better your own favorite genre of music, and can better tell the good music in your favorite genres from the crap that also is in it.

How does Pandora not

How does Pandora not listening to one person's classical suggestions show they're slanted towards pop and rock?

Curation always shows the biases of service owners. That's kind of the whole point.

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