I’ve used Pandora sporadically for quite some time. I set up an experimental station called “Woman & Piano” and started training it to give me nothing but female pianist/vocalists. I seeded the station with Anne Heaton and Regina Spektor and let it run for several hours.
To improve the results I have given the thumbs-down to every song with male vocals or instruments other than piano. (I also thumbs-down songs or artists I dislike and thumbs-up songs I do like but of primary importance were the gender and accompaniment.) This has worked pretty well. About one in twenty new songs has a male vocalist and about one in five has instruments other than piano.
However this doesn’t work for all the reasons I’d hoped. When you ask Pandora why a song was played, it tells you: “Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features…” Here are the features I’ve seen in Woman & Piano:
- folk influences
- mellow rock instrumentation
- extensive vamping
- acoustic rhythm piano
- acoustic sonority
- meandering melodic phrasing
- major key tonality
- minor key tonality
Nowhere was the sex of the vocalist mentioned. Apparently Pandora or the Music Genome Project does not index vocalist gender.
Even so, it is 95% likely to play female vocalists. That’s pretty amazing.