"What is Pandora?" you may ask. Pandora is the coolest thing in the world. From a simple perspective, Pandora is an internet radio station that you can customize based on your musical preferences. To create a station, you tell it one or more songs or artists that you like. It will play songs with similar musical properties to the songs you have given it, or to songs by the artists you have chosen. As you listen to the station, you can fine-tune your station by giving the songs that play a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down." It's a great way to get introduced to new music and artists that you haven't heard before.
The awesome thing about Pandora is how it works. The creator, Tim Westergren, was a computer science student at Stanford and also an indie musician. Pandora combines principles of artificial intelligence with music theory. The creators came up with a set of over 200 musical properties, such as vocal style, syncopation, production characteristics, instruments used, etc. They tested these parameters to come up with the set of parameters that was the most reproducible and worked the best for categorizing music. Every song in their vast library is given a profile based on this set of musical properties. They actually have a team of people with music degrees to create a profile for each new song that is added to their library. So what's unique about Pandora is that the system is actually looking for songs with similar musical properties to the songs that you put in to your station.
You may be wondering how I know about how Pandora works. Well, as it turns out I met Tim Westergren at Stanford before he launched Pandora (just once, but I recognized his name later when I was reading about Pandora). Shortly after Pandora launched, I helped out with a town hall meeting he did for Pandora in DC, and I got to talk with him one on one, and he explained to me the history of Pandora and how it worked.
I should thank Justin Crane for telling me about Pandora in the first place. A few years ago, I was complaining that I didn't know how to find new music that I liked, and he turned me on to Pandora. Thanks, Justin! Through Pandora I have discovered some new artists I really like, such as Jose Gonzalez and Melody Gardot.
On Pandora, I'm currently listening to this.