Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pandora Dot Com

My friend Ken mentioned Pandora to me the other day, and I'm so glad he did. is part of a project called the Music Genome Project, which has some 50 musicians working to characterize music according to a large number of criteria. Pandora allows one to create "stations" which you seed with a particular song or artist name. They then stream music that they think will fit a mold conforming to the seed song or artist. Along the way you can give selections "thumbs up" or "thumbs down", or you can add songs or artists to the station in an attempt to teach Pandora what you want in that stream.

It's an interesting idea very well executed.

The service is ad supported, or you can pay a small fee to avoid the adds. The ads aren't bothersome - nothing flashy or too distracting.

and what have you. Apparently some body empowered to collect royalties from music streamers is setting prices based on the number of streams that a They've recently had to limit service to the United States, which they verify by asking for your zip code and checking your IP address. This all has to do with licensing issues. There's some body empowered to collect royalties from webcasters whose rates are currently designed in a way that works against Pandora because every member's individual "stations" are considered distinct streams subject to a minimum stream charge. I hope they resolve the issue and stay in business.

Every time I'm away from Liza, water come to me eye.
Come back Liza, come back girl, wipe the tear from me eye.
Harry Belafonte. Beautiful!

There are some other limitations but nothing too bothersome. You can only thumb-down six times per hour, even if you switch channels, because their purpose is to stream "stations" not serve up custom programs. Has something to do with the licensing business. They explain all this in their FAQ.

I am impressed with the quality of the service, and I'm enjoying it greatly. I seeded my first "station" with "Joan Baez" (one of my favorite voices of all time), and like magic I was listening to a very nice stream of stuff I hadn't heard in ages along with some music new to me. I thumbed a couple of songs down along the way, but the stream has been very nice.

Since then I've made a few other stations seeded with everything from Juan Luis Guerra to Inti-Ilimani to Iron Maiden to Michael Schenker. These stations all work very well, though I have deleted a couple of stations that didn't work out as I'd have liked. Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma didn't work out. I think that's because the version of the song they were going to start out with was by Harry Belafonte, which seemed to direct the stream to music I'm indifferent to. I love Harry Belafonte but the stream was a little too elevator-music for me. I deleted that station and seeded a new one with "Harry Belafonte", down-thumbed a couple of selections, and I've enjoyed the resulting stream very much.

If a stream delivers a song you want to purchase, you can click on a menu that allows purchasing it from iTunes or Amazon.

Music is encoded at an adequate bit-rate (at least for my dead ears). I think it must be on the order of 128 kbps. Sounds pretty good to me.

My hat is off to the creators of Pandora. I hope they're able to resolve their royalty issues and stay in business.

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