Pandora.com

A few posts ago I mentioned that I was trying a personalised internet streaming service called last.fm, which uses a combination of tags and people’s preferences to find music it thinks you will like. I decided it was a bit crap because when I asked for music similar to Marvin Gaye, it suggested De La Soul, N*E*R*D and Willie Nelson.

Well, I may have the answer – Pandora. They’ve classified all their music according to its musical qualities and use that information to choose songs for you. To use the same example, if I ask for music similar to Marvin Gaye, first it gives me a Marvin Gaye song, then the next is ‘Easy’ by The Commodores, and if you ask why it chose the song, it says:

Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features classic soul qualities, mild rhythmic syncopation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, string section beds and major key tonality

Then ‘I’m Stone in Love with You’ by The Stylistics, ‘I Wish it would Rain’ by the Temptations, and so on. In other words, it’s quite nuanced and accurate.

You can make it even more precise by choosing an individual song to make selections based on. I’ve noticed a few gaps in the collection already – no Twinkle Brothers! No Will Young! presumably both because it’s a labour-intensive process adding new music and perhaps because it’s a bit US-centric. At the moment I’m using the 10-hour free trial, but I’m sorely tempted to sign up when that runs out. It costs $12 for 3 months or $36 for a year, and it’s Flash-based, just running through your browser.

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