One of my favorite applications that I’ve been using on my iPod Touch has been the Pandora Internet Radio application. Despite having a collection of over 12,000+ songs on my computer to put on my iPod at any time, I sometimes get bored with the music I already have. Perhaps it’s just the knowledge that there’s no chance of hearing anything new which creates the boredom, but in any case, sometimes random play is just not enough.
Well, the folks at Pandora have just the cure for the boredom, it’s their Pandora Internet Radio which is available both online for PCs and Macs to access through Pandora’s Website and the application they have made available for iPhones and iPod Touch. All you need to do is specify an artist or even pick a specific song, and Pandora’s Internet Radio will build a playlist of similar songs from similar sounding artists and you instantly have access to the world’s most perfect radio station, the one custom created just for you and your mood at that moment.
How does it work? Well the Pandora Application is part of the Music Genome Project. The Music Genome Project was created in 2000 by a “a group of musicians and music-loving technologists” according to Pandora’s Website. I can’t beat how they describe the work they’ve done, so I’ll just include it as they wrote it:
Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records – it’s about what each individual song sounds like.
By essentially breaking down each song to it’s DNA level, it means they’ve been able to create the smartest personalized Internet Radio service. Based on the artist or song you tell Pandora you want to hear, it taps into the data collected and is able to smartly find additional songs that will be similar to what you picked and present you a playlist that’s been customized just for you.
You you even have the ability to customize your station even further by giving song a “thumbs up” (meaning play the song more often) or a “thumbs down” (ban this song from the station). You get the chance to skip a song if you would like to hear it again, just not at this particular moment. Due to licensing restrictions, Pandora allows you a maximum six skips in an hour based on a rolling skip count (meaning up to six skips allowed within an hour of the most recent time skip was selected).
Amazingly, the service is free. It seems Pandora makes money three ways in order to provide this service. The first way is the site and iPhone/iPod application features advertising which is displayed on the screen while music is playing. A second way they earn money is by offering people the opportunity to subscribe to the service for $36 a year. What this essentially does is allow a subscriber to pay for the opportunity to remove the advertising and extend the time out period online from one hour to five hours allowing play time for longer periods of time on the computer. The third way is that Pandora allows you the opportunity to purchase a song you hear through through links where Pandora earns a commission from your purchase. Online these links allow you to buy from both the iTunes and Amazon digital music stores. On the iPhone/iPod only the iTunes store is available to purchase from within Pandora. Additionally, you can even bookmark songs if you want to buy them later on.
I’ve been enjoying a variety of custom created stations (in fact you’ll find my list of stations below and you can play them for yourself as well.) There’s also an option to mix the stations, but I haven’t tried that one out yet. You’re also able to e-mail stations to others to play as well. If you haven’t tried out the Pandora service, click on one of my stations below and give it a try.
I’m not sure if on the iPhone if the Pandora works on the EDGE or 3G network connections as the iPod Touch only has Wi-Fi capability, but I could see this being a fun application in the car. My only immediate request is that I would like to add Pandora access to the iPhone/iPod Nike+ application so I could do my running sessions on the treadmill listening to Pandora because I get bored with just the songs on my iPod. Surprises are nice to have too.