Pandora: The Music Genome Project Coming To You! - Technologist
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Pandora: The Music Genome Project Coming To You!

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section about legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Fasten your seatbelts - if you love music, you absolutely must get hip to the Music Genome Project brought to you at Pandora.com.  This is the next big thing in music.

As pointed out on the web site, Pandora means "all gifted."  According to ancient Greek mythology, Pandora received a variety of gifts from the Gods, including the gift of music from Apollo.  The twist now is that Pandora.com is here to bring the gift of music to you.
When you go to Pandora.com, you are allowed to create, at no charge, your own Internet "radio stations."  This is where the real fun begins.  

To create a station, you can, for example, enter the name of an artist or group.  Thus, if you enter Led Zeppelin, songs by that band will be played for you.  However, on a rolling basis, that "station" not only will include songs by Led Zeppelin, but it will provide songs by similar groups, by genre, timeframe and type of music, such as The Who, The James Gang, and the Doors.  Likewise, if you set up a Joni Mitchell station, you will hear her songs as well as songs by artists like James Taylor, K.D. Lang, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young.

You also can create a station by simply entering a song.  So, if you enter Stairway to Heaven, not only will you hear that song by Led Zeppelin, you also will hear other songs by that group, and associated songs from other groups, like Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and Buffalo Springfield.

One of the best functions of Pandora is the provision of music by artists who might not yet be well-known.  As an example, if you like Charlotte Martin's music and you create a station based on her name, you also will hear songs by Regina Spektor and Katie Todd that you may never had heard previously.  

If you do not want to be too specific in setting up a station, you can click on a genre of music and a wide variety of songs will be provided to you within that genre.  The genres cover many areas of music - everything from rock to hip hop, Latin to reggae, and Christian.

The vast array of Pandora music comes to you from the Pandora.com site, which you can play directly from your computer or from your computer into your stereo system.  Pandora music also is available on a wireless basis to mobile devices.  Some people now fulfill all of their music needs from Pandora.

So, how does Pandora do it?  Its Music Genome Project was started long ago and far away in Internet time back in 2000.  Pandora has engaged a team of fifty musician analysts who study one song at a time and they categorize each song across many dozens of attributes.  It takes about a half an hour to analyze each song in terms of its melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics and potentially hundreds of other attributes.  In so doing, when you create a station by selecting an artist or song, Pandora can provide focused music according your selection.  

I have been to Pandora's headquarters in Oakland, California and have seen this process in action.  Pandora rips one CD at a time, and has individual expert musician analysts in place categorizing each and every song in a labor-intensive process.  Pandora already has analyzed and categorized more than 125,000 CDs (I saw the room containing the mountains of CD boxes), comprising more than a million songs.  Needless to say, Pandora's reach is growing exponentially, as it processes more and more music and its listening audience expands.

Naturally, Pandora must survive (and probably will thrive) economically.  It receives revenue, for example, by way of advertising on its site (the ads are strategically placed so as not to distract from the user experience).   However, in listening to music on Pandora a user does not need to spend any money at all.  And the beauty is that Pandora reports that it has taken lawful efforts to be able to provide the music to users in a way that users should not be accused of copyright infringement.  

Users should know that while they create stations based on their preferences, the music they like is not downloaded.  It will not show up in their iTunes library on a permanent basis, for example.  However, Pandora remembers and keeps the stations that have been set up. If you like Led Zeppelin and have created such a station, every time you log on you can click on that station and hear the Led Zeppelin-related music that Pandora supplies to you from the Music Genome Project.

Got Pandora?  Check it out!

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes.  His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com.  To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.

This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.