According to Pandora, your taste in music can actually reveal quite a bit about your political leanings. The results are pretty great, if expected: turns out Democrats love EDM, jazz and reggae especially while Republicans are all about country music. Hip-hop and classic rock are loved by all.
It seems like a charming idea until you realize why Pandora is so interested: this news just turned the music-streaming service into a veritable gold mine for political advertisers.
The free, online music service is slated to launch a new advertising service this week that would infer a listener's political leanings from their musical preferences. This would enable political candidates and organizations to target its 73 million active monthly listeners. It's safe to say the listening experience is about to change.
The mechanism behind the tool is impressive, if slightly sinister. Pandora combines election result data with listeners' musical preferences by zip code. It then cross-references whether a listener's most-listened-to artists are more frequently played in counties that lean Democrat or Republican. And then it passes that information on to the relevant party.
Jack Krawczyk, Pandora's director of product management, said he believes Pandora's predictions are between 75% and 80% accurate (but I'll believe it when Nate Silver says it). If you're skeptical, though, imagine the political preferences of the Brooklynite spinning the new Daft Punk album on repeat and the fan in Franklin, Tenn. obsessing over "Home" by Dierks Bentley. It seems like Pandora might be onto something.
Pandora has allowed political advertisers to target listeners since 2011, but their insight into listener profiles just made them far more powerful. Pandora promises to eliminate the "guesswork" by playing up its 100% registered user base to advertisers and using "psychographics" to target extremely narrow groups like "moms in South Dakota or teens who love to rock in L.A." But really, who doesn't love to rock in L.A.?
Creepy? Yes. But political advertisers can only get so far with information about people's musical tastes, so Pandora is going one step further. Soon, the company will offer income data to advertisers, too. So keep listening to Pandora, but remember that they're listening to you, too.