Pandora's music discovery service reviewed

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Wouldn’t it be great if there was a radio station catering exclusively for your taste in music? Well, now you can create one online with Pandora, a fascinating website that creates a streaming audio playlist of music based on any artist or track you suggest.

Pandora is the result of six years musical research, assembling attributes that make up the identity of each song. These attributes are used to create personalised playlists, initially from the first track or artist you select.

Despite being such a complex program, using Pandora for the first time is a doddle. Visit www.pandora.com, select ‘Create a new station’ and input your first song title or artist name. If available, Pandora will play it.

After that, it’s down to Pandora, with a little mouse work from you. Interact with the choices made by Pandora through the "Guide Us" button by offering a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to the selections or by adding additional artists. The more you do, the more information Pandora has to work with.

If a new track impresses you, there’s the option to add it to your favourites and if you are amazed by your own musical taste, you can even email your custom-built station to a friend.

Pandora is impressive and addictive, but not yet the finished article. An obvious problem is the music library. Pandora has access to a considerable number of tracks, but there are limits. I attempted to start 10 playlists, based on both popular and obscure artists from different eras. Seven of those were successful. Not bad, but not perfect. Then again, maybe a Whigfield playlist was pushing things a little too far!

And  there’s licensing issues. Despite our global economy, record labels still operate within national boundaries when it comes to music rights. Pandora is developed in the USA, so unless you are an American citizen, you can’t register. This means you can sample Pandora, but you can’t access saved playlists, enjoy unlimited streaming or maintain up to 100 different stations without a US zip code.

That’s frustrating, but it doesn’t take too much gloss off this excellent website. Pandora is a great place to listen to old favourites, discover new music and enjoy your very own custom-built radio shows.

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Dave Walker

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