Unless you have been living under a gadget-free rock for the past year or so, you would have noticed the infiltration of a new breed of online music offerings. You may have even given one or two of them a test drive. Indeed, there are as many as 20 popular online music services currently vying for our phonic attention. The veritable smorgasbord of musical offerings may be overwhelming for some… What are the differences? What are the costs involved? Which one will satisfy my music cravings? Well, herein is my first recurring post covering Internet Music Services. Over the coming months, I will sporadically review some of the most popular new online services and you can decide for yourself which tickles your music fancy.
I have decided to start with one of my personal favourites- Pandora. I have been using Pandora since it was re-launched here in Australia in late 2012 after finally winning a lengthy legal battle over licencing issues. According to the site overview, this personalised internet radio service has made it their mission “to reward the musically curious among us with a never-ending experience of music discovery.” The basis of the service revolves around an intricate database of musical details called the Music Genome Project, compiled by musicians and music lovers. http://www.pandora.com/about/mgp
For the average user, the simple explanation of how Pandora works is that you create your own music stations- simply select a favourite artist, genre or composer. From that one choice, Pandora will create your personalised station, drawing from abundant musical ocean swimming with over 900,000 tracks which have been tagged based on attributes such as melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics. As you listen, you can fine-tune your station by giving a song a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down. The longer you listen, and the more you interact with your stations, the closer you will come to having the perfect random playlist, with each song bringing a smile to your face and a subtle desire to continually turn up the volume. Just like a traditional radio station, there is no option to listen to a favourite track over again, but giving a song a thumbs down will result in that particular tune being skipped and the station advancing to another selection.
A user can create up to 100 personalised stations. I currently have 15 stations, each chosen to appeal to a certain frame of mind, a particular day of the week, or an atmosphere I am wanting to imbibe. For example, my Prodigy Radio station is an efficient virtual defibrillator for me- bring me back to life on many an occasion during my weekly jog; my St Germain Radio station with its the deliciously dreamy undertones has the ability to counteract the unwanted effects of a slightly over-enthusiastic pour of the cordial bottle in my kids’ afternoon drink; and my Rolling Stones Radio station provides the perfect Friday afternoon springboard from which to dive headfirst into the ensuing weekend.
Pandora offers both free and paid services. The free service contains ads (albeit extremely few and far between- only playing twice during any one listening session). The very affordable paid service (Pandora One) touts ad-free playback, higher quality audio, a desktop application, custom skins and longer non-interactive playback facilities. For only $36 a year (in Australia) the paid-service seems a bit of a no-brainer. The mobile application (also free) was released in February 2013, and is fully integrated with the web service so you can enjoy your Pandora stations on a mobile phone, tablet or e-reader. There’s also the option to link up with your friends who are using the service and tune in to their radio stations. For me, the current lack of Sonos playback support in Australia- even in the paid version is the one downfall of my favourite online music provider.
If you are after a music service that offers simplicity and variety and one that requires minimal interactivity resulting in maximum listening pleasure, then you should definitely open the musical box of discovery that is Pandora! www.pandora.com
Have you tried out Pandora yet? What did you think?