Thursday, December 08, 2005

Now here's a pretty cool music service

In recent months, I've been having a blast discovering lots of new music, especially what is called podsafe music by artists who are letting their music be played by podcasters.

But I admit that I also like to listen to lots of music that isn't "podsafe." In fact, my Ipod is full of all the copyrighted stuff I've collected over the years.

So I was really excited to hear about a new service that's up and running called Pandora. It's essentially an on-line radio service, but you can create your own, personalized stations, tailored to present music you like.

The format is deceptively simple, but it really works. If you don't believe me, just try it out for yourself. Just go to the website and type in the name of an artist, or a song that you like. Then the site will start playing music that matches your preferences.

How does it do that? That's the really cool part. The site is based on the work done by a dedicated bunch of folks who have been working on something called The Music Genome project. Their goal is to break down music into essential elements in such a way that you can identify which songs will be attractive to which people.

But like I said, the details are less important than the end result. And the result is -- it really works. The online service lets you create up to 20 personalized radio stations. You have to register on the service, but it's not a problem and it's available for free. There is a Premium edition, without any advertising, but the ads are not really a problem. After all, it's the music you're interested in.

Oh, one more thing. If you're not a US resident, you're technically not allowed to use the service, according to the licensing arrangement the site has with the copyright owners. But as long as you don't tell anyone I told you, there is an easy way around that requirement.

When you get to the part of the registration process that asks for a valid US Zip code, just go here, enter the name of any US city, and you'll get a valid Zip code. Then just copy that back into the Pandora site, and you're off and streaming.

And since it's the holiday season, you should know that you can create a holiday music station really easily. Here's what the site says about that:

To hear holiday music on Pandora, just start by entering the name of a favorite holiday song (for example, "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow"). We'll then ask you to pick from a list of artists that we know performed that song. Pick your favorite version and we'll create a station that will play other similar holiday music. While we're not able to play that exact song immediately, it will play on your station eventually so keep listening!

If you'd rather start from an artist, just enter the artist's name followed by the word holiday (for example, "Nat King Cole Holiday"). We'll then use that input to build a holiday station based on the musical qualities of that performer's holiday

If you're looking for something nice to listen to at your desk filled with stuff you like, give Pandora a try.

Update - Dec 21 -- I'm not the only one that loves this site. Here's a detailed review by Tonya Engst from the Tidbits site.

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