Opening Pandora’s Box of Music

June 18, 2010

Written by wukovits

The radio stopped being a viable solution for quality music quite some time ago.  Hearing the same 20 songs pumped over the airwaves every couple of hours can be pretty tiring, and the old solution was to fall back to your own collection of CDs, vinyl, or whatever media was your choice when you accumulated your collection.  With the fall of the record store thanks to online purchasing and the advent of the MP3, finding new music without spending a lot of time researching can be pretty difficult.  Thanks to the Internet, there exists a new medium that can be really useful:  Internet Radio.

There exist quite a number of services that provide music; all you need is an Internet connection.  One of the most popular is Pandora Radio (, a service that personalizes your music based on your tastes that utilizes the “Music Genome Project”.  What is the Music Genome Project, you ask?  The ongoing project seeks to “capture the unique and magical 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.”  While the Pandora explanation of the Music Genome Project is nice, here’s how Pandora puts it all together:  you pick a song that you like and Pandora plays similar songs for you.  It’s a playlist creation utility, creating mix tapes of stuff you’ll probably like.  For people looking for new music, it’s indispensible.  I’ve discovered artists I never knew before and found songs from artists I knew but to whom I never gave a second chance.   To help Pandora with styling your personal music tastes for future playlists, you can give songs a “Thumbs Up” or a “Thumbs Down”, which will change the music Pandora selects for your listening.  You can also listen to the selection of premade genre stations or check out what your friends are listening to as well.

Pandora can be used as a free service; all you need to do is register.  Free comes with limitations, however, in the form of advertisements and a cap at 40 hours of free music a month.  If you run out of listening time, you’ll get another 40 hours on the 1st of the next month, or you can select one of two options.  Option one is to pay 99 cents for unlimited listening for the rest of that calendar month, which is quite a deal if you run out of time in the first week of the month.  Option two is to upgrade to Pandora One for $36, which is a year’s subscription.  Pandora One gives you unlimited listening, no advertising, higher quality audio streams, and unlimited skipping.  You might ask, “what is unlimited skipping?”  With the free service, you can only skip 6 songs per hour, per station, but this is limited to 12 total skips per day across all the stations, due to the terms of the music licenses Pandora utilizes.  To skip a song, you can give the song a “thumbs down”, use the “skip” button, or choose “I’m tired of this song”.  To conserve your skips, try not to give your “thumbs down” until after the song has finished playing.

Pandora isn’t the only player in the Internet Radio marketplace, but it is the most prevalent.  Pandora is available on mobile devices like the iPod, iPad, Android, Palm, and Blackberry.  A number of home music appliances are popping up, including the Pandora service out of the box, like Blu-Ray players, tabletop radios, digital media players, and home theater systems.  With so many different ways to listen, I’m sure that you’ll find Pandora to be a great alternative for listening to the music you want to hear.

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