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Going Head To Head With Genius On Playlists 174

Posted by timothy
from the put-that-man-down dept.
brownerthanu writes "Engineers at the University of California, San Diego are developing a system to include an ignored sector of music, dubbed the 'long tail,' in music recommendations. It's well known that radio suffers from a popularity bias, where the most popular songs receive an inordinate amount of exposure. In Apple's music recommender system, iTunes' Genius, this bias is magnified. An underground artist will never be recommended in a playlist due to insufficient data. It's an artifact of the popular collaborative filtering recommender algorithm, which Genius is based on. In order to establish a more holistic model of the music world, Luke Barrington and researchers at the Computer Audition Laboratory have created a machine learning system which classifies songs in an automated, Pandora-like, fashion. Instead of using humans to explicitly categorize individual songs, they capture the wisdom of the crowds via a Facebook game, Herd It, and use the data to train statistical models. The machine can then 'listen to,' describe and recommend any song, popular or not. As more people play the game, the machines get smarter. Their experiments show that automatic recommendations work at least as well as Genius for recommending undiscovered music."
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Going Head To Head With Genius On Playlists

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  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chrisje (471362) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @06:25PM (#30000780)

    There, now we got that out of the way (and I do feel oddly better about life) I have to say that I'm still skeptical about these algorithms for music recommendation.

    A friend of mine and I listen to a lot of the same music. He got me on the soul train in a way, so we talk a lot about Soul, R&B (The old fashioned kind), Funk, Rare Groove, Jazz and Gospel. Now he and I can dig the same song for wildly different reasons. We can sit and discuss the same tune, which we both like, and discover we look at the thing so differently it's as though we're from different planets.

    Now I've tried all possible music sites and playlist generators, but at the end of the day I simply never really agree with the correlation they see between song one and song two. I really wonder if the /. audience believes something as complex as music appreciation can be captured in a program....

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @06:40PM (#30000948)

    When are people going to realize that unpopular music is unpopular for a reason. Sure the music execs try to push their own artists more than others, and they try to target the largest cross section of the population as possible, but why wouldn't they?

    Trying to bring 'unpopular' must to the masses because that will suddenly make it popular is stupid. Music becomes popular because someone hears it and likes it, not just because they hear it.

    Throwing Timmy's garage band onto every radio station in the world during prime time isn't going to change the fact that Timmy's garage band sucks and very few people want to hear it.

    Yes, there are people who don't have the same tastes as the general public, that is a small portion of the public, nothing you do is going to change that. There will always be a bell curve. Stop with this crap of think just because you like some indie band that no one has heard of that everyone else will.

    If the general public likes them they will become popular. If they play a local show and people like to hear them, they'll get requested and more people will hear them. Then more places will request them, and rinse, repeat, until they will become popular.

    Unknown bands are unknown because they are interesting or 'good' to a small number of people, not because of some silly idea that they got shafted by a playlist generator. The playlist generator is simply following trends that it learns from people. It doesn't actually analyze the music to find the algorithm that makes it 'good music'. It says 'People that listen to this song also like this song, add it to the list', rinse, repeat, playlist generated. It doesn't say 'hey, no one listens to this song, lets throw it in and then everyone will like it!!!

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @06:42PM (#30000972) Homepage Journal
    I would welcome this type of tech.

    I love music, but, alas...I'm getting older, and am stuck in classic rock. Funny...they weren't classic when I started listening to them..haha.

    But seriously, even I'm getting a little weary of listening only to the Stones, Zeppelin, etc over and over and over again...

    I really love any kind of good guitar driven, bluesy, riff-laden rock. Guitar blues...etc.

    I have to guess even in this modern, splintered genre world, there is still some of this type of music being put out by new kids. I've found Wolfmother, and really like that...but, that was a recommendation I got from a friend, but, I don't have the time to find music out there.

    When I grew up...it came through the radio. Music wasn't nearly as splintered and specialized as it is today. On my 'rock' stations, I heard Stones, Zeppelin, AC/DC, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Kansas, Beatles...hell even older than that you'd even hear an occasional John Denver or Olivia Newton John song....quite a mix without turning the dial.

    Today on the radio, you have to tune stations all over to get each type of music it seems...and I just can't seem to find something with enough mix to keep my interest. And hit radio...same shit all the time, no variation.

    People suggest the internet...well, most of my time is at work, and most places i work..won't allow you to stream music from the web, it is blocked. So, that's not my option.

    I've recently discovered Pandora on the iPhone...I have started finding things like that I like from that.

    I guess, more things like this and the tech mentioned in the article would really be a blessing for me if I could throw that one while at work, but, would have to be through the phone I guess since no streaming on work computer.

  • by DanielSmedegaardBuus (1563999) <daniel@rhesusb.dk> on Thursday November 05, 2009 @06:57PM (#30001174) Homepage

    It's exactly algorithms like the one used by Pandora that make me agree with the viewpoint that it's not possibly to calculate what "other music" I like based upon the "known music" that I like.

    Anyone with a preference for Electro Pop will likely have been wondering when the hell Pandora would learn the difference between Miss Kittin and Scooter after mindlessly clicking "Dislike" on eurodance tracks when Pandora fails to see the difference between one type of electronic music with a repetitive beat and another.

    The only really worthful algorithm we'll ever manage to produce is one that uses the collective intelligence of all its users.

    Stop being arithmetic supergeeks wanting to put everything inside a box, and start figuring out how to get all these weird unpredictable people to input valuable data into your system.

    Google figured this out more than a decade ago, so why are we still seeing stupid mathematical and "pattern-based" algorithms every year?

  • by FroBugg (24957) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @07:02PM (#30001230) Homepage

    Setting aside the obvious joke, the "wisdom of crowds" has actually been proven to be useful in certain situations.

    If you ask, say, a single person how many jelly beans are in a jar, he may or may not come close. If you ask several hundred people how many are in a given jar and then average their responses, the result tends to be surprisingly accurate.

    The problem is that this is limited to situations requiring little to no topic-specific knowledge. Asking a large crowd of random people what the GDP of China is will be a waste of time. It's a technique that requires you to be asking the right questions.

  • Last.fm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadyman (939863) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @07:08PM (#30001290) Homepage
    Last.fm's "neighbor" system works similarly, except it looks at what each person listens to. Keep in mind that it takes a fair bit of training to find neighbors who are actually close to your likes, but once you've listened to enough music, it's pretty good at finding things I like but have never heard of. I.E. if I like song A B C and D, and you like song A, B and C, you might like song D.

    The neighbor system groups people with similar musical tastes, and allows each person to tune to his/her "Neighbor Radio", to listen to songs liked by your neighbors.

    (Disclaimer: I have no vested interest in last.fm besides being a paid member. [My Profile] [www.last.fm])
  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @07:20PM (#30001398)

    I just wish I could tweak the individual conditions to see where it'd get me... like having all criteria match except genre.

    Even a line-item veto for the "why did you play this song" would be ideal. Thumbs up or thumbs down on every song seems to make the music selections worse, not better. Obviously which songs I like and which ones I don't doesn't neatly boil down to criteria that pandora can identify, so I think it's unavoidable that it will pick up on what it thinks I like but I don't.

    For example, I like hip hop with clever lyrics, but hate rappers who can only talk about themselves. Most hip hop artists though rap about themselves at least a little, even the ones I enjoy. Simply because all rappers rap about themselves at least a little, any song I give a thumbs up, it's always going to think I like that and will start playing songs that are -only- about the rapper. If I make a station around Aesop Rock, who rap about things besides how well they rap, the selections are good. If I hit "I like" for too many songs though, the selections get worse, looking in "why did you play this song" there is always a line about "boastful lyrics." Being able to select "no, not that one" would be a plus, as the other criteria get better.

    (Please, try to resist the temptation to post on how you don't like hip hop. I know, I know, rap music is missing a c, that's very clever.)

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sarahbau (692647) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @07:20PM (#30001412)

    I've found a lot of songs/bands I had never heard of thanks to Pandora. I started a station based on "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater, and it's interesting to look at "why was this song selected" for new songs. The current song I'm listening to says "we're playing this track because it features a subtle use of paired vocal harmony, varying tempo and time signatures, chromatic harmonic structure and demanding instrumental part writing." I could have said that I like varying tempo and time signatures, and demanding instrumental parts, but it's neat that it can pick up on things like chromatic harmonic structure and paired vocal harmony.

  • by swb (14022) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @07:42PM (#30001582)

    Is to get 10 recommendations I have to listen to 10 songs in a row due to their skip limitations.

    They can keep their skip limitation, that's fine, I get the licensing problem they have.

    But why can't I get a simple list of the next N (10, 20...100?) songs they'd recommend based on my current "station"? It might even improve their recommendation engine for me because I could thumbs up/down (and I suppose, "I'm tired of this one", too) the songs and cut through the cruft faster. Sort of like Netflix "Rate Movies" engine which allows for more inputs to the rating system.

    I also am annoyed that you can add a *song*, which is highly specific, or an artist which is somehwhat specific, but not highly so given some artists creative changes over time, but you cannot add by *album*.

    For example, IMNSHO REM's Chronic Town, Murmur & Reckoning are brilliant and most everything else after is less (often much less) so. Adding those *albums* defines a general yet atomic set of musical criteria; adding the entire band and all its albums biases it much more towards the later records, even by sheer weight of number of songs.

    This is true for dozens of bands whose sound changed substantially over time or whose last N albums were horseshit or whatever.

    All in all, I *want* to like it but the "service" doesn't mesh with how I listen to music from a practicality sense (streaming via iPhone blows on my car stereo and is a battery hog elsewhere) and 10 recommendations aren't worth 30 minutes of sitting down.

  • last.fm on android (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tknd (979052) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @07:46PM (#30001620)

    I don't know how last.fm works but I downloaded the android application on my phone and so far it is treating me well. It is much faster than pandora and allows me to listen either by entering an artist, tag, or user. So in tags if I type in Jpop I get a bunch of japanese pop songs. I can find stuff from other countries as well which is cool.

    It almost feels like iPods are overrated now. It would be cool if I just subscribed to a service and used my phone to stream in music based on my preferences or playlist. Then all music available on the internet (world) would be accessible as long as I had a 3G signal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @09:30PM (#30002242)

    I believe the right approach looks more like pandora or last.fm, they associate songs in clusters depending on different parameters. The systems suggest music in the same cluster you have been voting you like.

  • by LordRobin (983231) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @11:55PM (#30002920)

    Well, actually, yes. I use Genius. A lot.

    Look, it's not perfect, but for folks like me, who don't have either the time or the desire to craft a playlist for each mood I may happen to be in, it's a godsend. Before Genius came along, my options were either to listen to a specific album or artist, or shuffle the whole damn iPod. I'd do that occasionally, but the end result was heavy on Beatles and J-Pop. I obvious like both genres, or my iPod wouldn't be full of the stuff, but sometimes I'm just not in the mood for either. The Genius playlists do a decent job of segregating my collection into various flavors of rock, J-Pop, and anime soundtracks.

    It's just a matter of convenience for this casual listener. I can understand why a more hardcore music collector (like say, someone who has 300+GB of music) might not find Genius sufficient. But then, I find it hard to believe such a collector would be satisfied with any automated playlist generator.

    ------RM

  • by AdamPee (1243018) on Friday November 06, 2009 @12:59AM (#30003092)
    The difference between a marketing department and a PR department is the quality of the work they do. A PR firm gets more press for free than a marketing firm gets for pay. It's important to know the difference, this isn't marketing, it's public relations.

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