I’d hang on to it if you’re one of those ubermobile folks out there. If you’re like many people though that listen to music primarily in front of a desktop or laptop [insert picture of me with headphones here], you might find Pandora a very useful substitute for your music collection or shabby (at best) Internet radio options.
Pandora isn’t intended to replace your music collection though. It exists to complement it and help it grow. And from what I’ve seen, it does a darn good job.
Pandora is similar to an Internet radio station in the sense that you listen to music over the Internet.. and that’s where the similarity stops. Pandora does something much better than any radio station because it plays the kind of music that you want to hear and it’s fantastic at it! Radio stations (AM/FM, XM, Sirius, Internet, etc.) are channel-based that play music from particular genres. What Pandora does is allow you to enter an artist or song and a custom streaming music station is created for you that plays music similar to that particular artist or song, helping you find music that you’ll love that you may have never heard of before.
I know, I know, you’re saying “yea right, they play music in the same genre, no wow-factor there” or “sure – but I’ll just get the typical barrage of top 40, sponsored music no matter what I choose.” I can confidently say “Not so!”
Here’s the official scoop from the Music Genome Project, the brains behind Pandora:
Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records – it’s about what each individual song sounds like.
The music that plays from your personal station is truly customized, based on the specific characteristics of the song or artist. This is brilliant!! I must say, I’m completely addicted because this really does work very, very well.
For example, I’m a big The Postal Service fan. I’ve thoroughly explored the “Customers who bought this item also bought” feature at Amazon without much luck in finding other artists with that thing about The Postal Service that I’m looking for. Fifteen minutes listening to Pandora and I had a decent list of artists and songs that I not only had never heard of but that I already loved! As is probably obvious at this point, this service, if it sticks around, could be very valuable to small label artists.
Check out the Pandora FAQ for everything you could possible want to know or just head over and create an account to check it out. Some of the features I love best about Pandora – you can have up to 100 stations at any time (variety is the spice of life!), all the music streams at 128Kbps (basic MP3 quality – not bad for Internet streaming) and you can even skip through songs (6 skips per hour per station). There are also ways to give the system feedback to even further tune the music to your tastes. Plus, of course, they’ve made it very easy to purchase the music you’re listening to.
Oh, and did I mention it’s FREE? The advertisements are on their way but there will be inexpensive premium options… how does $36/year for ad-free, find-new-artists, high-quality streaming radio sound? Music to our ears, I guess.