How Pandora Creates Stations and How to Customize Them

Tailor your Pandora listing experience to suit your tastes

Young woman listening to music

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Pandora is one of many music streaming services with curated radio stations. The site allows users to create personalized music playlists through the use of like/dislike buttons and other settings that tailor content to your tastes.

Unlike other streaming platforms, Pandora is randomized, meaning you cannot select specific songs to listen to. That being said, it has the most sophisticated curation system for identifying and catering to individual tastes.

How Pandora Chooses Music

Pandora's "Music Genome Project" breaks down the musical qualities of five parent genres or "genomes," as well as hundreds of subgroups called "genes." Through musical analysis, Pandora is able to define the characteristics of every song within its genome. Most of this process is performed by real people, but the process of play-listing and recommending music is controlled by mathematical algorithms.

Here are some examples of how songs may be characterized: 

  • Mellow rock instrumentation, folk influences, disco influences, subtle use of vocal harmony
  • Acoustic rock instrumentation, subtle use of vocal harmony, acoustic rhythm piano, extensive vamping 
  • Electronica influences, rhythm-and-blues influences, subtle use of vocal harmony, synthetic sonority 
  • Mellow rock instrumentation, subtle use of vocal harmony, intricate melodic phrasing, minor key tonality 
  • Female lead vocals, minor key tonality, catchy hooks, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation

Each of these groupings relates to a different station. You can look up the "DNA" of of a given song at any time. Here's how:

  1. While a song is playing, select the Menu icon indicated by three horizontally aligned dots.

  2. Select Why This Song? Pandora will list the attributes or "genes" tagged to the song, as well as an explanation for why it was recommended.

Tools for Customizing Your Stations

Pandora also provides a wealth of information and options for learning about artists you like and tuning the station to better suit your tastes. Here are some of the ways you can optimize and populate your station:

  • Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down: These buttons are the most basic tools for guiding Pandora in the direction of your taste. Use the Thumbs Up button while a song is playing to tell Pandora that you want to hear more songs like it. Conversely, use Thumbs Down to tell Pandora that the current song doesn't fit your idea for this station.

Once you use Thumbs Down to tell Pandora you don't like a song, it will no longer play on the station in question, but it may still appear on other stations.

  • Crowd Faves: This station mode will play the most popular tracks curated for this station.
  • Discovery: This mode will play artists and songs that would not normally play on the station in question. it adds variety and depth to help Pandora better understand your preferences.
  • Deep Cuts: This mode selects lesser known songs from the artists you've indicated that you like.
  • Newly Released: With this mode, Pandora will focus on the latest music from the artists you like or who frequently appear on the station in question
  • Artist Only: This setting will only play tracks from the artist you listed to launch the station.

Because of Pandora's licensing agreements, you cannot create playlists of specific songs and titles. Instead, you must get creative in the way you shape the station. If your station was defined by Pandora, the station page will give you a snapshot of the seed songs and artists used to create the station.

You can view your station listening history by hovering over the album artwork for the currently playing song, then selecting View Session History. Select the Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down buttons to curate past songs.

If you don't dislike a song but want to hear it less, you can select I'm Tired of This Song from the Menu button.

How to Organize Your Pandora Stations

As your list of Pandora stations gets bigger, you may find yourself returning to a few favorites. Pandora allows you to organize these in a more browsable fashion.

With Pandora open, select My Collection from the top menu bar. Alternatively, hover over the list of stations on the left and select See All.

From here, you can list your stations by name, creation date, or most listened. You can also shuffle playlists for a much more eclectic listening experience.