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Pandora To Get a Challenge From Clear Channel, Powered by Somerville’s Echo Nest

September 06, 2011
Boston Business Journal
by Kyle Alspach

The Echo Nest Corp. has reached an agreement to provide the music intelligence for “Clear Channel’s big answer to Pandora,” CEO Jim Lucchese said in an interview.

The Somerville, Mass.-based company said its technology will power an update to Clear Channel   ’s popular iHeartRadio app, which will allow listeners to customize their stations based on song characteristics, in the vein of Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P)

But unlike Pandora, whose music genome project has needed people to manually analyze songs, Echo Nest’s technology does it automatically, Lucchese said. The technology combines computer audio analysis with cultural understanding gleaned from the web — reviews, blogs, tweets — to create custom song stations and playlists.

The technology has allowed Echo Nest to analyze many more songs than Pandora, 30 million compared to 800,000, and to a far greater level of customization, Lucchese contends.

“You can say, I only want to listen to artists based in my hometown, who’ve released something in the last year, and I want to keep everything at a high temp with high danceability. I also want artists that have a low familiarity — haven’t been covered in Rolling Stone — but have a high level of what we call ‘web hotness,’” Lucchese said. “It’s superior in the level of granularity and personalization, and it’s also a larger catalog. We are going live with a catalog of over 11 million songs.”

Lucchese did not have details on when Clear Channel Radio will be offering the new version of the iHeartRadio app, but said it will likely start with a group of preregistered beta users.

Echo Nest is currently powering 200 music applications, including the MTV Music Meter. The company has most recently received a $7 million round of financing last October, led by Matrix Partners   and including participation from Commonwealth Capital Ventures   , both of Waltham, Mass.

Echo Nest employs 30 and was founded in 2005 by two MIT Media Lab PhDs, Brian Whitman and Tristan Jehan.

Pandora To Get a Challenge From Clear Channel, Powered by Somerville’s Echo Nest

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