What's the difference between adding a song as a seed to a station vs. giving it a thumbs up?

Does it affect which songs will be played differently, or do they behave exactly the same?

I noticed that when I start a radio station with any given song, the song is usually not going to be played on the station. However, when I up-vote a song, it will be played more often. Is this really how Pandora works, or am I just not observing it correctly?

3 Answers 3


thumb : This action narrows the scope of the station; thumbing down a song prevents that song from being played again and thumbing up will make sure that that song is played more and that the scope of the station is limited to songs that are more like it

seeds : This action broadens the scope of the station; adding a song or artist to a station adds variety based on that song

See also


When you tell pandora you like a song by taking the time to choose it out of every song in the universe, pandora assumes that you are expecting more of it than to just play that one song back to you. Pandora expects have listened to this song enough times to know that you like it, and that you want to use its massive power to be more than just a first generation ipod.

Voting-up essentially means "play me this and things similar to it more often". Entering an artist or song to add variety means "I like THIS a lot, but I'm smart enough to be able to click play in itunes or youtube and listen to it, so give me stuff similar that I haven't heard yet." :D


A bit late to answer, but the others don't mention an interesting and feature of Pandora's curation method.

Pandora became famous when they built a model of the "music genome". They ran a massive project with music experts trained to assign every song an incredible range of 450 categories and metrics. Each song was evaluated and assigned categories and metrics like "genre", "use of [brass] horns", "BPM" (beats per minute), "lyrics/instrumental [no lyrics]", "language", etc. Artists and albums are probably evaluated/scored just by averaging all the songs associated with them.

When you select different songs as seeds, the channel is then built to achieve a reasonable similarity to those sound attributes. If you add a song, it might narrow down the range of songs matching the criteria, OR it might expand the range by increasing the variability of the seeds. For example, if you chose a marching song by John Phillip Sousa, an R&B song by Beyonce, and a metal song by Metallica, your channel would probably a wide range of music. It might even seem random. On the other hand, if you choose for your seeds three rhumba songs with the same instruments, BPM, language, and artists all born in Cuba in the 1960s and had even collaborated with each other, you would probably a get more narrow range of music.

Pandora does not explain this algorithm, but I think for all of its value, they kind of ruin it once they allow the thumbs up/down function to influence the list.

If you use a thumbs down button, the song won't be played. That is typically clearly useful. Songs like it might also not get played, but I have not noticed this to be an effect.

If you use a thumbs up button, it seems that song is given a boost to its probability of being selected. This effect gets noticeable over time. You eventually might feel like such songs get overplayed, particularly if you crave hearing new music or music you have not heard in a long time. However, I have noticed a problem of another sort. Once you thumb up a song, you are liking it FOR THAT CHANNEL, even if you might not really want to hear the song again on that channel. This can degrade the targeted selectivity of a channel, particularly if you are not paying attention and forget why you created the channel in the first place.

Here is an example. I am listening to a channel I created. It is basically a rock channel for medium-to-hard rock songs from old Guess Who to more relatively recent artists like Soraia. Anything with some pep, though preferably not too much noise. Well, somehow a 1950s/1960s simple rock-and-roll pops up, let's say a Dion song like The Wanderer. Now, I used to dance to that song at Lindy Hop/Swing dances in the early 2000s. I like the memories. So, I select thumbs up. Then, the station starts playing more songs like that. Another classic "rock-and-roll" song like Unchained Melody might come up. I like this song in the right mood, so I might absent-mindedly hit thumbs up. Well not only is that older style and not edgy, it's slow. So, songs like this now alter the feel of the station.

If you have that problem, you COULD edit your list of thumbed-up songs to fix the station (if that feature still exists), but after being a long-time listener, going through that list can be time-consuming. So, using the thumbs-up feature can lead to hard-to-fix problems, while the seeds are generally more intentional and easier to change.

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