Pandora thinks it’s better than any other service at knowing what music you like. And it’s ready to prove it to you.
On Monday, the 15-year-old internet radio service unveiled a new feature called Thumbprint Radio, a customized radio station for each Pandora listener.
Unlike the other stations on Pandora, which are based on a single band, artist, genre, or composer, Thumbprint Radio is based on everything you’ve ever liked — or, as Pandora says, “thumbed up” — when you’ve used the internet radio service.
The new station is essentially Pandora’s answer to Discover Weekly, the popular Spotify feature that debuted over the summer. Discover Weekly is a playlist that is filled every Monday morning with about two dozen songs Spotify thinks you’ll like.
Apple Music also plays up its music discovery prowess — the service has “editors” who “handpick albums and playlists based on music you like,” the company says.
But Pandora is different. It’s not an on-demand streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music — you can’t just pick the song you want to listen to. It’s a computerized radio DJ that picks the songs for you. Pandora sees this as its key advantage because it thinks it knows the exact song to play for you at all times. The company is pitching the new service with the slogan “the next song matters.”
Pandora’s curation is based on the Music Genome Project, a sort of secret sauce that classifies songs based on hundreds of different attributes, like tone, rhythm, tempo, and vocals. Thirty Pandora employees — many are trained musicologists, and they’re all performing musicians — spend their workdays listening to music and analyzing different attributes of songs to classify and categorize them.
For Thumbprint Radio, Pandora takes the attributes of songs that you’ve liked across all genres you’ve listened to (except children’s, holiday, and comedy stations), and applies them to songs of different genres. The company insists that it’s not just a station of your own greatest hits, but one that will play music that you’ll like but you haven’t necessarily ever heard on Pandora.
“What we can do is take that song in hip-hop and match [its attributes] to a cluster of songs that work in a different genre,” Chris Phillips, Pandora’s chief product officer, told Tech Insider in an interview. “So it’s a smooth transition to take me through a journey of my thumbs.”
I’ve been testing Thumbprint radio for the past week, and it’s been nearly perfect for me.
Over the last couple of years my biggest use of Pandora has pretty much been to listen to classical music while at work, so my Thumbprint Radio station, at least at first, skewed heavily toward classical.
That wasn’t what I wanted to listen to on a recent road trip, so I thumbed down some of those tracks, and listened to a few tracks — and thumbed them up — on some of my other stations. (Pandora says that a person needs at least three different stations with at least four thumbs up each in order for Thumbprint Radio to work. Pandora recommends creating a new station and thumbing up some songs if you haven’t used the service in awhile.)
After I did that, the music Pandora gave me was great. A lot of it has been music I was really into in the past — I had some serious Arcade Fire, Radiohead, and Ryan Adams phases — but they’ve almost all been songs that I’ve liked. I’ve heard some new songs, too. I’ve heard tracks from Band of Horses, Sliversun Pickups, Broken Bells, Wilco, TV on the Radio, Andrew Bird, Fleet Foxes, Matt and Kim, and many more, over the past week.
The company says Thumbprint Radio, which becomes available on Monday to all Pandora subscribers, will improve the more you listen to and use Pandora.
When you do see a song, it gives you an explanation of why it’s playing on Thumbprint Radio:
Thumbprint Radio also looks at other data, like the time of day you’re listening to different types of music, to better understand what music to play for you. Some heavy Pandora users may find they get different types of music at different times.
For example, Phillips says he listens to a lot of hip hop when he’s working out in the morning, but when he’s spending time with his kids on the weekends, they put stations based on Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. As a result, his Thumbprint Radio station plays him his hip-hop to workout, but more pop music on a Saturday afternoon.
“I don’t have to do any work,” Phillips said. “I don’t have to jump to a bunch of different stations. I don’t have to look ahead and see the songs. I can sit back and let Pandora do it for me,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Tech Insider. Read the original here.