Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Some more thoughts on Pandora

Pandora went to Version 2 last week, with a letter from founder Tim Westergren. They’ve added a few new features – including the much-demanded bookmarking that now lets you keep a playlist of favorite pieces of music – and announced that along with subscription, they’ll be offering a free, ad-based model. Listeners can either subscribe and stay clear of ads, or use the free service which will have advertising. No word yet as to whether the ads will be text-based or, as I suspect, audio. What use are text-based ads when you can simply close a window?

In any case, in order to salve whatever wounded feelings those of us adopters might have for shelling out money earlier, Pandora also gave present subscribers complimentary upgrades. I now have a year’s worth of Pandora for my original $12 three-month subscription; not a bad deal at all considering the several hours I listen to it on a daily basis. As I write this, I have my current favorite, John Fahey Radio, playing; a station I created that my friend Jill says reminds her of funky bookstores smelling of incense and tea.

The bookmarking feature is utilitarian, simply a “favorites” page that keeps track of any selection you add to it through Pandora, although the “artist” link will send you off to allmusic.com where you can learn more about a heretofore unknown favorite. For example, I found out that I really like “Six Organs of Admittance,” an obscure band out of northern California, again thanks to John Fahey Radio, and was able to get more information about them and their albums through the allmusic link in my favorites page.

I like better the “Edit this station” feature that lets you fine-tune your Pandora stations. This tab lets you see what music/artists you’ve added to any particular station; music you’ve liked; music you’ve banned – any of which can be removed if you’ve decided, for instance, that adding Cyndi Lauper to your female vocalists station during a weak moment was ill-advised or that maybe you should give Wilco one more try in your alt.country station.

So what else am I listening to on Pandora? Outside of my Fahey station my current favorites include a jazz station I’m still fine-tuning; and an interesting shared station featuring a band I never heard of before, with the wonderful name of Iron & Wine.

Pandora seems to be a victim of its growing popularity this week; lots of downtime and interruptions, but that’s just growing pains I’d guess. I have no idea whether Tim Westergren wants to keep Pandora independent, but I could see Amazon, Google (maybe especially Google. Imagine audio-based AdSense ads based on your music preferences), or Apple all buying it within the next couple of years.

I – believe it or not – get no kickbacks from Pandora for flogging it (I even created the ad to your right on my own). I’m just a fan. But if you like listening to music on your computer, give it a try. I bet you’ll become a fan too.

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