Is Hillary Clinton going to win the 2016 election thanks to Pandora?

Pandora Internet Radio is a music streaming service that is doing a great job in terms of music recommendation. Their recommendation system is based on the Music Genome Project, which began in 2000 and is one of the most thorough analysis of popular music ever undertaken. It took 30 experts in music theory five years to complete. The Music Genome Project is based on an intricate analysis by actual humans (about 20 to 30 minutes per four-minute song) of the music of 10,000 artists from the past 100 years. This means that the analysis of new music continues every day. The difference with recommendation systems of other players in the market is that Pandora does not make use of the popular method of “people who like this also like this” or other users ratings.

It starts with entering a song or artist that you want to listen to and Pandora will generate a continuous playlist. While a song is playing, it is possible to provide positive or negative feedback for songs chosen by the service. Based on your feedback, Pandora is analyzing the musical structures present in the songs you like and it will add other songs that possess similar musical traits to your playlist.

But, after years of customizing playlists to individual listeners, the company has started data-mining users’ musical tastes for clues about the kinds of ads most likely to engage them. Eric Bieschke, Pandora’s chief scientist says: “It’s becoming quite apparent to us that the world of playing the perfect music to people and the world of playing perfect advertising to them are strikingly similar”.

A lot of companies make use of behavioral targeting. Behavioral targeting comprises a range of technologies and techniques used by online website publishers and advertisers aimed at increasing the effectiveness of advertising by using users’ web-browsing behavior and personal information. Amazon is one of the companies that is really differentiating themselves by using their huge amount of data to make a deeper understanding about individuals and try to influence their behavior.

Pandora adds another layer on behavioral targeting: music. They seek correlations between the listening habits of their users and the kinds of ads they might be most receptive to. The company beliefs that people’s music, movie or book choices may reveal much more than commercial likes and dislikes. Certain product or cultural preferences can give glimpses into consumers’ political beliefs, religious faith, sexual orientation or other intimate issues.

In time of elections, Pandora uses their political ad-targeting system. They are able to deconstruct users’ song preferences to predict their political party of choice. This system has already been used in former presidential and congressional campaigns. During these campaigns, Pandora users tuning into country music or Christian bands might see ads for republican candidates and others listening to hip-hop tunes or classical music might see ads for democrats.

I think providing ads based on music preferences is a new interesting way to target the right audience. Of course, the system will not be able to predict everyone’s political affiliations right, but I can imagine that the algorithm has improved a lot since the last presidential elections. So in 2016, Hillary Clinton might be winning the elections thanks to the ads on Pandora.


Deschene, L. (2008). What Is Behavioral Targeting?. Available: Last accessed 03-05-2015.

Layton, J. (2015). How Pandora Radio Works. Available: Last accessed 03-05-2015.

Singer, N. (2014). Listen to Pandora, and It Listens Back. Available: Last accessed 03-05-2015.

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