Learn from Pandora: the use of data to improve your business

20 Jun


Pandora is a suite of products and programs that connects artists and fans. It is designed to support artists of every size at every point in the campaign cycle. The insights and marketing tools enable an artist to know their fans, market to their fans, and engage their fans.

Data to make bricks

But it does all this just using analytics and data. It studies over 450 different musical attributes to find songs catering to the listener’s idiosyncratic musical tastes. Then it considers the time of day (energetic morning, winding down evening…), the medium through which it’s being heard (mobile phone, desktop, car stereo etc.), and the actions you take (thumbs up or down, skipping songs you otherwise listen to regularly and so on). Based on these and many other logical factors, the next song is recommended to the listener.

Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay.”

– Sherlock Holmes

Success in figures

So Pandora enjoys 80,000,000 monthly active users, 1,000,000 analysed songs, and 65,000,000,000+ thumbs-ups!

Understanding the emotion of music

Given the success of its recommendations, a lot of their effort is poured into this aspect. Unlike other music streaming devices, they don’t focus on the short-sighted method of gauging user preferences based on songs/ albums bought. They consider the music bought, but embrace the basic psychology that people want to listen to other things in a given moment. This success of this thinking can be attested by the 65 billion thumbs.

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

– Sherlock Holmes

The listeners are the prize

Thumbprint Radio, which has over 150,000artists listened to over 370 million hours, put together all the thumbed songs across different stations and creates radio just for you based on your preferences. Then it uses personal recommendations and algorithms to capitalise on these preferences.

“There is nothing like first-hand evidence.”

– Sherlock Holmes

The algorithms aren’t so straightforward

This is how they used the data to drive decisions, and those results to drive more confident action and manoeuvring. The first test ran thumbed songs randomly, but could get stuck on one type of genre, e.g. rock. The second grouped stations of similar attributes and ran small clusters randomly, so distinctions could be better mapped like classic rock or metal rock. So next was to know how much classic rock they liked and how much metal rock.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

– Sherlock Holmes

Vouched for from the CEO

Data is the foundation for virtually every part of our business. From the playlist personalization engine to the ad targeting capability, we have turned even more to data-science.

We will leverage this data as we enter into new business lines such as on-demand subscription services, live events and more.

Each competitive advantage — personalization, effortless discovery, monetization, scale and data — is driving the growth of our core business and supporting our expansion into new markets.

“I never guess. It is a shocking habit — destructive to the logical faculty.”

– Sherlock Holmes

Choices reflect views. Views help with ad targeting.

Pandora data mines to match ads to users for better engagement. For instance, someone in a jaunty mood may be more receptive to a sprightly hippy fashion ad, as opposed to someone listening to spiritual music who may respond better to a mystic travel-to-India ad. Of course, they aren’t the first people to tie user product choices to relevant targeted advertising. (You probably are familiar with Amazon and Netflix inferring things about you form your shopping history!) However, Pandora believes (quite accurately) that user choices reflect a lot about their views and beliefs. And based on your zip code registered it can tailor ad choices even further.

“The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession.”

– Sherlock Holmes


Pandora is constantly collecting and securing actions on a user’s individuality in real-time. With this kind of data-driven decision making and fact-focussed operational and business practices, the system put in place is robust, farsighted, provident and prescient.

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