Pandora and Last.fm are the leaders in online radio listenership right now. And, a lot of unknown artists are eager to have their music played on these great radio platforms. But, the amount of exposure for these artists is very low. Why?
Comparing Pandora and Last.fm’s Matching Technologies
Either way you slice it, and no matter how much you like or dislike Pandora and Last.fm’s ability to match you with music you like, neither is ideal for matching people with new, more obscure music.
Pandora’s matching technology is based on The Music Genome Project. The assumption there is that, if you like music with certain musical qualities, you will like other music with those same musical qualities. Things like playing technique, composition, harmonies and much more, are analyzed and attributed to each song that makes it into Pandora’s system. Theoretically, this is a great way to predict whether someone will like new music, by asking, “How similar is it to the music we already know they enjoy?” But, it’s not so much the technology that prohibits Pandora from doing a good job – it’s the business model.
Last.fm uses a different approach to matching users with music they’ll like. Last.fm taps into the libraries of their listeners and figures, if a lot of people who own Alice in Chains also own Temple of the Dog, then those two artists must be a good match. Personally, I believe the Pandora system to be a much better technology for 2 reasons. The first is that, while a lot of people who own Alice in Chains also own Temple of the Dog, the two really aren’t that similar. The fact that a lot of people own both albums might have more to do with geography, the era of grunge, and because people who like one genre are more apt to like another genre, even though the bands within them might not be that similar. The 2nd reason is that, when it comes to unknown bands, there aren’t enough people who own them for Last.fm to really make a clear judgment. There might be a new band out of Seattle that sounds just like Alice in Chains, who even plays a few AIC covers, but since very few people know about them and own their albums, albums which might not be properly registered with Gracenote or others, Last.fm wouldn’t consider them a statistically relevant match.
The Business of Being Pandora
So, while Pandora’s system seems ideal for helping users find new music, their business model is not.
The cool thing about Pandora is that users can come to their site, enter the name of any artist they like, and immediately create a radio station that plays similar music. However, each of these songs takes someone anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes to classify, and sometimes more. That makes classifying music a long and expensive process, and is the reason why Pandora has only 700,000 songs in their system after 10 years. And, since one of their best features is their ability to start a station by entering the name of an artist, Pandora is highly incentivized to prioritize the most popular artists ahead of those that are less likely to be searched for by their users.
Creating the Best Place to Discover New Music
So…earbits is attempting to do things a little differently. While others focus on mainstream music and drop in the occasional emerging artist, earbits will specialize in emerging music and be the premier destination for high quality music discovery.
There are hundreds of thousands of high quality emerging artists and bands with great music waiting to be discovered. Most people, including many music enthusiasts, won’t go out of their way to find this music. We can’t blame them. The percentage of quality music verses garbage on Myspace, for example, is very small. It requires a lot of work to screen that music in search for the occasional jewel.
This is where our job starts. We’ll search for great music, and by great we mean radio quality music. We don’t intend to dictate taste – just quality. We then classify the music by many different parameters, similarly to Pandora, and play it for you according to your music preference. You’ll create custom stations, we’ll get smarter about what you like, and your listening experience just keeps getting better.
So when you are looking to hear the same old stuff you already know, Pandora and Last.fm are good solutions. But when you are interested in high quality emerging artists, earbits will be the place to go.