First there was radio: You choose what type of music you’re in the mood for. Someone else chooses the cuts. 50% of them are what you were hoping for. 10% are new songs that you hadn’t discovered yet, half of which you’ll like. 20% are OK. 20% you’re not crazy about. And 10% suck (flip station; come back later).
Enter Pandora: You create your own radio station by telling it an artist you like. Tell it you like Lotus Child and it plays something from their catalog. But then it follows up with something by Barenaked Ladies. Cool, I like them too. Then something by Blue James Band. Hmm. Didn’t know about them before… Not bad.
As it plays, you can tell it which songs you like and don’t like in order to refine the results. You can also add additional artists or songs to the mix. Then sit back and enjoy the perfect music for your current mood. If your mood changes, you can create a new station. Much like playlists, maybe you’d create a “work” station and a “fall asleep” station. When you’re feeling frisky, click QuickMix, which is like shuffling through your whole library… except that it’s shuffling through your stations, which are shuffling through the world’s supply of music you might like.
There are also some Web 2.0 features. You can see other people’s stations, and what they’re listening to. If you’re proud of your creation, you can share your station with your friends (or anyone in the world). It’s like giving a mix-tape but not quite knowing what’s on it. No musical taste of your own? Browse and listen to other people’s stations. At the risk of public ridicule, here’s my current stations.
Downsides? All of the tunes are streamed live over the interwebs, so this is more of a work/home solution than a commuter thing. …At least until we all get 3G mobile phones. And if Congress doesn’t come through for us by July 15th the whole thing may be just an example of something cool that could have been. But I have hope.