Last year my dad told me about this new music service that was being designed by a group called the Music Genome Project. The purpose of the service was to introduce listeners to new songs they might like based on their individual tastes, but not using any marketing data (i.e., people who bought this also bought…) or genre-type connections (i.e., you like country, and this is country, therefore…). Instead, the staff at the MGP spent five years analyzing thousands of songs and picking out the important elements that define them: things like melody line, harmony voicing, vocal style, rhythm patterns, instruments used, etc. The list goes on and on, and the result is Pandora (formerly Savage Beast), a Flash-based service that chooses songs with similar elements to your favorite songs, resulting in frequent, and sometimes surprising, happy introductions, all from within your web browser.
The way it works is
you type in the name of an artist or a song, and the service then plays you a “radio station” of songs that share common elements with the artist or song you chose. As you listen, you can tell Pandora if you especially like or dislike a song, and it will factor those preferences into your individual listening experience. Some stations might start off exactly how you’d like them, and others you might have to mold a bit, but I’ve found the system to be pretty responsive.
I have two examples: I made a station for “My Blue Tears” by Dolly Parton, a simple bluegrass song, and that station has rarely given me something I haven’t enjoyed. On the other hand, my “Kylie Minogue” station was playing all sorts of really shitty house music, maybe because the beats are similar. However, I told it I didn’t like those songs, and now it’s playing more intelligent pop music, with only a few duds here and there. Over all it’s a very clean preview with no bugs that I have found. There are a few key features missing (like song history), but the creators have promised the most-requested features will be included in the public release. You can keep up with the development progress on their blog.
Pandora is still in a Gmail-like invitation preview stage, and you can request an invitation here. I’ve heard from other people that they usually send one to you within a day, but if they don’t, just leave a comment here or email me and I’ll hook you up. This really is the best and most addictive thing I have found on the Internet since e-Scrabble (RIP). You should try it while it’s free.