Friday, July 4, 2008

Last.FM and Pandora

Music on the radio is dead. At least it is to me. Most radio stations play the same thing over and over because they have a very limited playlist. But I don't want this to turn into a negative post. What I really want to write about is the greatness that is the internet in helping me discover new music.

As you may know, the internet is a series of tubes that information is shoved through and into our homes, schools, libraries and places of employment. If you didn't already know about two of the best things on the internet since sliced bread (they have sliced bread on the internet, right?), let me explain to you what they are.

How do you describe music? There are many determining factors, but much is hard to describe. The people at the Music Genome Project set out to break down music into tangible terms. With Pandora, a user is able to type in the name of a song or artist and have the player come up with similar music.

I have learned about a whole bunch of new bands this way. You can make different stations and add onto the stations with other "seeds". It's fun to play around with and make themed stations. I imagine it would also be great for a party. Just put on a station and let it dictate the mood you want, There are some problems though. The biggest one is which songs play. You can "thumb down" songs so the station does not play that kind of music anymore, but I sometimes have a hard time getting the station to sound the way I want it to. I have been trying to make Psychedelic Pop and Neo-Psychedelic station for a long time and can not seem to get either even close.

But that is a small problem because the vast majority of the time my stations come out rather well. There are also very little ads (very unobtrusive ones) and it is free.

Meanwhile, over the pond, the good folks at Last.FM have created a site centered around music that is one of the best. The purpose is to keep track of the music you listen to. All you have to do is sign up for free, download a program for free (you can also subscribe and get a few more features) and viola, instantly you get to know what you listen to. Okay, maybe you already know, but that is only the beginning.

After gathering some stats about your listening habits, Last.FM begins suggesting music to you. And earlier this year they unveiled the ability for anyone to listen to any track for free through the website (as opposed to Pandora where you can not specifically pick a song). Not every song is available, but most of what I want to listen to is there...except the Beatles, who still have a problem with the internet apparently (although not with Pandora). Most major label music and a great deal of indie and underground music is available as well. I have discovered a whole bunch of music just by wandering around and checking things out.

To cap, we should all be cool and expand our music tastes (I am trying. See: here and here). And the radio just won't cut it anymore.

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