HOME   |  


DECEMBER 10, 2008   

Free music

Unlike some of you, I don't have an iPod filled with music of all kinds. I've had an iPhone for three months and have only listened to music once.

It's not that I don't like music—I do—but it's not really a priority. In the car I mostly listen to the radio, always NPR or college stations. At home I have probably less than 200 CDs—some in the bedroom, others in the kitchen and living room where there are CD players. I get my music fix via the Internet.

Screenshot of Pandora music interfaceI started with Pandora, an impressive free service that plays music based on what you like. To start, you type in a few names: musicians, songs or composers. Then the website's software begins playing those songs and others that are musically related.

You can set up multiple "stations" to reflect your moods and interests. I started with one called "Blues" and used names like Buddy Guy and Otis Rush to start it off.

It soon became apparent that I hadn't put enough variety into my initial mix of names. I was hearing more Buddy Guy than I really wanted. I found that switching to Pandora's pre-built Chicago Blues station gave me much more interesting music. So Pandora was great until I discovered...

Last.fmScreenshot of Last.fm interface

Similar to Pandora, Last.fm plays a continuous mix of music that you choose by musical style or artist name. I've been listening to Last.fm's Blues Radio for a couple of weeks now, and find that I rarely use Pandora anymore.

It's the diversity of the music that won me a over. Just a few minutes ago the songs were by Cream, James Brown, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Elbow... Elbow?

OK, so diversity isn't always successful. But you can always click the Skip button, unless you really hate the song and use the Ban This Track button instead. Pandora gives you similar options.

Greater musical diversity seems built into Last.fm, perhaps because of how the music selection process operates. Pandora is based on the Music Genome Project, which analyzes melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, etc. to group music stylistically. This is great, but of course results in music that sounds similar.

I haven't been able to find a specific description of how Last.fm selects music, but it appears that it combines user choices/recommendations to compile lists of related music, like Amazon and Netflix do to recommend things you might like. The result is—to my ear, at least—a more interesting assortment of tunes, old and new, familiar and strange.

Whatever your taste in music, I'm pretty sure that you'll find something to enjoy using either of these online services. Try 'em both and let me know which you prefer but clicking Comments below.

Top   |      |   
AddThis Social Bookmark Button



ARCHIVE  ( Video icon = Video )








MAY 2008

APRIL 2008