Pandora killed the radio star

Volume 11, Issue 54; 29 Jul 2008; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Commercial free music on your own personal radio station.

Buggles got it wrong: video was never a threat to the radio star. Don't get me wrong, I like a good music video as much as the next guy; I'm even old enough to remember when MTV played them. (I think, but I won't swear, that I saw the inaugural broadcast of Video Killed the Radio Star.) But I listen to music in all sorts of places where I can't or won't watch videos: while I'm driving and while I'm working, to name just two.

I like to listen to music while I work (or at least, while I'm programming, not so much when I'm reading or writing), but I find the spoken word totally distracting. It's just a personal quirk, but while I can happily code through hours of music, a single radio DJ break or commercial completely derails me. So “internet radio” is as useless for my purposes as a regular radio.

For years I've been listening to music off my iPod (or off my laptop). I know lots of folks who build extensive playlists, but I'm lazy, I just put the whole thing on shuffle. It works great, and with several days of music in the mix, I don't get many repeats. But I also don't get any new music unless I buy it. And if I don't hear it, how will I know I want to buy it? Catch 22.

No more. If you live in the United States, you can listen to music on Pandora. The way it works is you “seed” a “station” with a song or artist (or several) and Pandora plays music by that artist and other tracks that are “like” that song or artist. What constitutes “like” is determined by the algorithms of the Music Genome Project.

It works incredibly well (at least for me). Feel like a little Kirsty MacColl, there it is. Feeling more like a little Clinic, there you go. Feeling like…well, you get the idea. And by seeding with several artists, you can get a more eclectic mix. Personally, I find the results of seeding with only a single artist a little bit of “too much the same”, which I guess is a testament to the accuracy of the algorithms. And if Pandora picks a song you don't like, you can give it a “thumbs down” to remove it from that station.

Five stars!

Comments

As a last.fm user, I'm surprised you didn't mention it? I've really enjoyed the last.fm radio that lets you enter an artist or tag, and it dynamically assembles a radio station of similar artists. I've found some pretty good music that way!

—Posted by Scott Hudson on 29 Jul 2008 @ 04:30 UTC #

Hmm. I've never really used Last.fm that way. Maybe it's the same thing and I just never noticed.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 29 Jul 2008 @ 08:32 UTC #

Radio actually committed suicide along with television and anything else that becomes too infected with ads and other noise. I've never understood why radio stations feel the need to waste so much time talking far beyond the minimum amount of time they would need to devote to ads to make some money.

I prefer last.fm to pandora...seems like last.fm does everything pandora does and quite a bit more, though I haven't tried pandora lately to see if they've added anything.

—Posted by David on 30 Jul 2008 @ 05:55 UTC #

Sadly Pandora has been cut off for folks outside the US. While we had access it was yes a way excellent service, and I wish the RIAA would just crawl under a rock and die rather than create problems for an innovative service like Pandora that introduces listeners to so many new bands. (I'm assuming that it's the RIAA that is the obstacle, rather than (say) the EU.)

—Posted by F.Baube on 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:59 UTC #

I wrote up my experiences about two years ago in Opening Pandora's (music) box, including a brief try of last.fm.

—Posted by Bob DuCharme on 31 Jul 2008 @ 03:34 UTC #

And if you live in the UK, you can use Tor to listen to Pandora. Allegedly. I wouldn't know. Hey, RIAA, leave me alone!

—Posted by James Abley on 18 Aug 2008 @ 07:23 UTC #