I’ve had a love-hate relationship with radio for years. On the one hand, I love not having to choose the next song. If you’ve been in the car with me and my iPod on shuffle play, you’ll often see me skip dozens of songs until I pick one that interests me. Having that ability taken away from me is cathartic, and I’m happier for it. I also love that the radio will make me listen to new music I haven’t heard before. It broadens my musical horizons, and introduces me to some great bands.
The problems I have with radio are as follows: bad songs, commercials, and DJs deciding to talk. All three of these interrupt the flow of good music to my brain, and I’m not a fan of that. The only recourse here is to change stations or turn the radio off. Often I’ll scan every station in the band, only to be thwarted by the trio of problems again and again on every station.
The good news is, I’ve discovered the wonders of internet radio. I’m not talking about a standard radio station broadcasting on the internet, but services that tailor the music to your tastes. Two such services stand out, and I use both of them on a daily basis.
With Pandora, I can seed a station with a song/artist that I like, and it uses an algorithm to find songs that sound the same. It continually improves the station as I give songs a thumbs up/down, I can add variety to a station by adding new songs/artists to the mix. Last.fm works much the same, except is uses user metrics rather than an algorithm to determine music I’d like. That is, if 87% of people who like song A also like song B, then it will play song B if I say I like song A.
While I prefer Pandora’s approach, I’m just in love with last.fm’s metrics. I submit every song I listen to, either by iTunes or Pandora, to last.fm, though a process known as scrobbling. You can look at my profile and see all sorts of interesting details about my taste in music. Honestly I never realized I liked Pearl Jam so much.