Thursday, July 17, 2008

Opening Pandora's JukeBox

First point: If your idea of fine radio is listening to a station with a 20 song playlist where there is a good chance you will hear the same song 3 or 4 times a day, you can probably skip this.

Second point: There's a good chance I'm the last one to know about this web site, which means you all can snicker behind my keyboard.

On Tuesday there was an accident on a critical freeway that resulted in me standing and waiting for a shuttle bus to the train station for nearly an hour. Of course I was thinking dark thoughts. But then something perky happened - a guy I know who normally takes a later shuttle showed up to wait with us and he proceeded to show me some WAY cool apps he had downloaded to his iPhone. (Small commercial here - being able to download apps to this thing has just increased its value to me tremendously. Seriously - this is a really good thing.)

One of the apps was for a website called Pandora. This is an internet radio station of sorts, but it's a lot better than that. This is a website based on the Music Genome Project, where nerds try to make good guesses at what songs you will like.

Here's how it works - you tell it a song or band you like and it creates a playlist for you. It then plays these songs for free. Without any kind of commercials or DJs.

And it works extremely well. 

I first entered a band (Barenaked Ladies) and it created an OK playlist. I then entered an obscure song (To the Dogs or Whoever by Josh Ritter - a seriously great song) and it then started playing songs that were reasonably similar. And I liked almost every song. And I had heard of only about 10% of the artists or songs. So I entered another song and it was like gold - it came up with so many songs I had never heard of that fit in with the seed song I gave it that I was amazed.

You create an account which involves entering a few things (like your email address, zip code, year you were born - supposedly all to guarantee you are living in the US and are over the age of 13, since nobody ever lies on the internet) and it saves these seeds as bookmarks. So when you decide you're in an AC/DC mood (I'm thinking of Plot here), you kick it off and rock out. Then when you feel like Buck Owens, you just select that bookmark. As it plays songs you can rate them just like with TiVo. Give a song the thumbs-down and it stops and the next one starts.

So what's the downside? Well, you can enter a song as the seed for the playlist that it creates, but you will likely not hear that song. When I entered a band, I did hear songs from that band (and many others), but you can't choose what songs to play. My feeling is that you will get better results by entering a song than a band since most bands have a wide variety of styles. (Except AC/DC.) It also uses some of your internet connection bandwidth. The music quality is not stunning, but it's not hard to listen too either. Oh, and you can pause a song, but you can't rewind it or jump back to a previous song.

I really don't know how this makes money. I figured they would have a tie in that allowed you to buy songs that you really liked, but I haven't seen that yet. You do hear a lot of music from artists that you've never heard of, so that probably has something to do with it.

In any case, this is really cool to have on at work in the background.

But I won't be listening this weekend. We are going camping in the woods just outside of Santa Cruz. Friday night will be spent at the Boardwalk watching Sha Na Na. The woods, for all its glory, has not figured out the internet yet, so there will not be daily updates. I'm not even bothering to take my computer since there is no electricity. Hopefully I'll have fun things to share on Sunday.

That's it - move along...

1 comment:

Sally said...

Pandora rules! I've been listening to Nina Hagen play list for months now.