Sound-o-rama – Who needs more music? You do!

Like so many others one might associate me with (25-30 age group, Southern Californian, technically inclined, consistently online), my music tastes vary pretty widely. Depending on the mood-of-the-moment, I'll make the full rotation from yoga and nature tunes to T.S.O.L. and Frank Zappa. I am also a notorious station-flipper in the car, which is part of my character.

For over a year now, Live365 has been my saving grace. With roughly 40 stations in my presets and a huge selection of others to browse through, things were going well. There were, however, two major downfalls – first, the commercials that pimped the VIP memberships every five songs or so. Next, the lack of choice.

Wait, wait wait wait. Didn't she just say– yes, yes she did. Hmm. A little clarification: Live365 gives you the ability to choose music out of premade stations, run by people you don't know, and occasionally wouldn't be able to access anyway because it would be the random VIP station of the day.

A week or two ago, a co-worker introduced me to a potential placebo for my musical A.D.D. – Pandora. (You can check out my current favorites list as well.) Pandora is, so far, the wave of my musical future. Much like Live365 you are able to choose music (by artist or song) that you want, however you can not only create your own stations, but *guide* the development of the station by choosing several different options. Don't like it? The song immediately stops and switches to one that may suit your choices more, based on past song choices. (As opposed to Live365, where you click the little thumbs up or thumbs down, and that's…. pretty much all that happens. You still have to listen to the song though.)  As the selections come up, you have the following options:

+Why did you play this song?
Based on what you've told them so far, they're playing the selected track because it features (for example) east coast rap roots, use of modal harmonies, a tight kick sound and many other similarities identified in the music genome project.
+Make a new station from this song
+Buy this song from iTunes / album from Amazon
+I like it / I don't like it
+Add to Your Favorites page

You can also edit the stations by renaming them, selecting additional artists (for example – a trance station with your top 10 favorite DJs), and viewing your selections of likes and dislikes.

It would be good to get some more international music in there, but so far I haven't found it yet. By 'international', I mean Arabic, Egyptian, Turkish… things that I can practice bellydance to. My Eastern music range needs to broaden, because despite liking J-pop and Talvin Singh, that type of music isn't what I'm paying to take classes for. Anyway, they apparently weren't "playing the full breadth of songs in the Music Genome Project collection" until late March. Things are improving, but it gives me that tiny disappointed feeling when the following comes up: "I'm sorry, I can't find "Artist/Song" in the Music Genome Project. We're always looking for great new music to include, so we'll check it out. Is there something else you feel like listening to?"

It's also a nice way to discover artists with very similar sounds to ones that you like. Another example, this morning was Social Distortion, followed by Johnny Cash… then by someone else singing "Ballad of a Teenage Queen", which I wasn't certain if they were covering Johnny Cash's version, or if they were the original singers. Either way it sounded good.

Two last perks – they correct typos in your searches. Let's say you're searching for DJ Keoki, but spell it "DJ Kyoki". They then ask "Do you want to select the artist 'DJ Keoki'?" Very nice. Another tasty moment was hearing a fun club mix of "Cry Little Sister" by Johnny Vicious. Mmm.

Overall, I'm giving Pandora a 4.5 of 5 stars for the present moment. Great job, developer dudes.

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