Kitchens Sync

Perfectly Personalized Internet Radio with Pandora and the Music Genome Project

- 2008.09.25 - Tip Jar

Rating: 3 and a half out of 4

The other day, I was busily helping the newspaper editor at school put together the headlines and layouts for the latest issue. He was listening to an internet radio station that I had never heard of, Pandora Radio. He explained the basics of the concept behind the Music Genome Project, the technology which powers the service, and encouraged me to try it.

When I logged on, I was simply amazed at this wonderful service. Plus, it's free!

Music Has Genes?

The Music Genome Project (MGP) was started in early 2000 by a group of people who were attempting to decode the "genes" or attributes of different music pieces. They currently categorize music according to roughly 400 attributes, including use of key, vocals, instruments, etc.

Pandora Radio was formed to bring this project to the masses. Though it was initially a subscription service, the low turnout prompted the company to change the station's structure into a free, ad-supported service.

To start, you simply log on to www.pandora.com. Then you enter a song, artist, or composer into a search box. Pandora's servers then use the latest results from the MGP analyzers to build an entire radio station around what you picked. The server will then start playing a song - which may or may not be what you specified - that is identified as a song containing key attributes which define your selection.

There are also many different genre stations, from Blues to Rap, that you can add to your list. You can then create an account that will allow you to log in and access your custom stations anywhere.

Well, almost anywhere - you can only use the service on computers or other devices in the United States. If you can your laptop out of the country, you will be unable to access the service due to the licensing laws that Pandora is required to follow.

Pandora Is There

While the most basic way to access Pandora Radio is through a web browser, once you have set up an account you have a multitude of options available for listening. The best one I have seen is the iPhone/iPod touch option. Pandora has released an app that is completely free to access your Pandora account. When your device has an internet connection, you can open up the app and choose a station. I've heard it even works fairly well over the 1G iPhone's EDGE connection. The interface itself is remarkably similar to that of the Music app.

Other access options include a paid cell phone subscription service and different home audio devices from companies like Logitech and Sonos that can pipe the stations into your home.

Unfortunately, the client for the computer falls short of other options. The desktop client, currently in beta, relies on Adobe Air, a technology designed to bring web-based apps to the desktop. It falls far short.

In my tests, the desktop client ran more sluggishly than the site in my browser. Also, to do anything more than change stations or play/pause, you most open the client's window, which is simply screen-scraped from the website. I would much prefer something that would look and act similar to the iTunes MiniPlayer or even integrate with iTunes directly.

Other than problems with the desktop client software, this service is pretty much perfect.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4. LEM

Editor's note: I'm impressed. I typed in one of my favorite artists, and Pandora came up with an awesome playlist. And I discovered another neat feature: Once I'm set up with Pandora, I can go to the website from any browser on my Mac and have it load my settings - no need to log in. Very impressive! dk

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