An Analysis of Pandora Radio

When deciding what to do my final project on, I thought of a few things. One facet of social media that didn’t really come to me until near the end of the semester is something that is in use before class starts…Pandora! Since I am basing my career in radio broadcasting, I figure an analysis of Pandora Radio would be up my alley.

For those unfamiliar with it, Pandora is an internet radio station that provides streaming music to computers and various other devices (which I will touch on in a moment). Pandora is similar to other internet radio stations such as Last.fm and Live365. Like these stations, Pandora contains an algorithm that plays music based on the listener’s preferences. By typing in an artist, song, or genre, it can play music that fits your selection. For example, I would type in “Classic Rock” and Pandora creates a radio station. Then the algorithm, which is called the Music Genome Project, finds music that fits in that genre and plays the songs in that station. Since I entered “Classic Rock,” Pandora will play artists such as Credence Clearwater Revival, Journey, or the Rolling Stones. One feature of Pandora Radio is the ability to bookmark artists and songs. If there is a certain song or artist that you like, you can bookmark and save it for future listening. In addition, listeners can purchase any song by choosing “Buy from…” and allows the user to buy the song or album from iTunes, Amazon.com, and other vendors.

Another feature of Pandora is the ability to pause and skip music selections, which is not common among other internet radio stations. If a listener needs to pause a music track, then Pandora will allow it and the song will resume once the play button is pressed. If someone wants to skip a song, then pressing the skip button with proceed to the next song. The catch is a limit of 6 skips for each hour of listening, which brings me to talk about its limitations.

Aside from the amount of song skips, Pandora also has a listening time limit of 40 hours per month. If someone wants to listen to more music, then users can spend an optional $.99 upgrade for unlimited music, no advertisements (popups and audio ads), and higher quality songs. Another limitation is not getting accurate tracks on stations. While Pandora “gets it right” most of time, there will be occasions where some songs will not fit. An example of this would be hearing an Elvis song in a Metallica station. However, there is a fix for this problem (and happens to a unique feature). Users can give a thumbs up or down for any song. If you approve a song, then the artist will remain in the station. However, disapproving a song will skip the song and two thumbs down on a specific artist will remove him or her from the station entirely. The catch is each disapprove counts as a skip and will be useless is all your skips are used up.

Pandora Radio is available on various platforms. Of course, listeners can access Pandora’s website to hear their favorite tunes on any PC or Mac computer. In addition, Windows Vista and 7 users can download a Pandora desktop gadget, play their stations without going to the website, and 40 hour listening limit doesn’t apply. Also, Pandora is available on various home theatre systems, TVs, and other devices.

For those who travel frequently, people can listen to Pandora on-the-go. Some automobiles have Pandora Radio integrated with the vehicle’s audio system, thus competing with the radio. Also, there are apps that listeners can download on iOS and Android devices, thus making Pandora Radio a portable alternative to traditional radio.

Pandora has had some issues in regards to music copyright laws. In 2008, federal courts decided on what to do royalties paid by internet radio stations, including Pandora. To avoid paying expensive fees, the co-founder Tim Westergren decided on the 40 hour listening and skipping limits and $.99 unlimited fee. In addition, the royalty laws make Pandora available only in the United States, so anyone else around the world cannot use the internet radio stations as it recognizes U.S. and non-U.S. IP addresses.

I personally think Pandora Radio will stick around for many years as an alternative source of music. It is available on many devices and more on the way. Pandora is also integrated into Facebook and friends can see what you are listening to, thus making Pandora more social. Also, it offers thousands of songs not found anywhere else and helps discover newer music that even local radio stations will not play. Pandora also gives the listener some levels of customization as opposed to the corporate-run playlists of some AM/FM stations. The portability of the internet radio stations, whether it is via Wi-Fi or cellular services on smartphones, can allow users bring their favorite music with them.

Pandora’s impact is even felt by tech companies like Apple. Obviously, Steve Jobs took a page from Pandora by utilizing the “Genius” feature in iPods and iPhones, which gathers similar tunes together and creates a playlist based on listeners’ preferences. The future remains bright for Pandora and those looking for something different in radio listening habits.

Sources:

“How Pandora Slipped Past the Junkyard by NY Times” – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/technology/08pandora.html

Pandora’s Website – http://www.pandora.com

“Pandora Was Saved By The iPhone, Now It’s Thinking IPO” by Business Insider – http://www.businessinsider.com/pandora-was-saved-by-the-iphone-now-its-thinki…

“Web radio service Pandora files for $100M IPO” by MobileBeat – http://venturebeat.com/2011/02/11/pandora-going-public-ipo/

“Pandora spurs music sales; Spotify not so much” by Cnet –http://news.cnet.com/8301-31001_3-10459568-261.html#ixzz1Ksg3BBRn

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