Archive for November, 2008

Down the Tubes 5: Pandora

I was going to take today to talk about fabulous applications for Macs, but I’m recovering from the last-minute thesis crunch and I haven’t done my research for that article. Have patience, it will surface next time! Meanwhile, I’d like to take a moment to make you aware of Pandora, if you’re not already using it.

Pandora redefines internet radio. Instead of basing a “station” off of different music genres, popular artists, or what the general public listens to, Pandora runs off of the Music Genome Project. Begun in 2000, the Music Genome Project identified 400 traits of music based on melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, composition, and form. It then analyzes songs and mixes them into playlists based on those traits.

I love making playlists, but they take time, which is something that I have very little of these days. Pandora makes my playlists for me, and it’s very easy for me to pick out one song or artist whom I feel like hearing, and then have Pandora do the rest. I can also keep my stations handy by signing up for an account, so that my music follows me anywhere I go. It’s a totally internet-based player, so there’s nothing to download.

Pandora has a few difficulties, mostly centering around its musical limitations. The scope covers only the past hundred years of music. The Project only has a little more than 400,000 songs in it currently because each song is analyzed by a person on the Music Genome Project team. Therefore, very new or obscure musical pieces may not be in the system yet. It also doesn’t cover classical or Latin music yet, although a Pandora for these genres is supposedly forthcoming.

Another issue is that I can’t, as a user, enter in a song and expect to hear that song exactly. I also can’t rewind or go back and hear a song again. Because of copyright restrictions, Pandora stays free by being a random play radio, rather than an on-demand radio. It’s basically a difference in licensing, and end users would have to pay upwards of ten dollars a month in order to have the music be “on demand.” Frankly, I’d rather Pandora stay free.

While Pandora is mainly on the internet right now, there is talk of making it more mobile. Sprint and AT&T offer Pandora on select phones, including the iPhone. There is also a design out for a Pandora home system, which works like Apple’s AirTunes in that it connects to a network and beams Pandora’s music to any player in range.

You can access Pandora at www.pandora.com. Sign up and start listening! Pandora offers plugins for Facebook, Myspace, and your web site, as well, so that others can see what you’re listening to.

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