So we may be a bit slow here but bear with us if you've already experienced Pandora since it does bear repeating.
The Pandora website claims that they can answer the age old question "Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?" What it offers is an online 'radio station' which delivers music similar in style to a starting song that the user specifies.
It's difficult to explain, you're probably best just giving it a try, but I'll have a go. The Pandora product uses the Music Genome Project as it's source for deciding which songs to deliver. The editors of the MGP have spent 5 years catagorising 100,000 songs based on up to 400 different musical characteristics. Using statistical anaysis it then starts delivering sngs which have similar characteristics to your starting tune.
Each starting tune is saved as a radio station and you can have up to 100 stations saved at any one time. Once the selection process is under way you can hone the style of music down by indicating which songs you like and dislike.
After only a couple of hours testing it has been a bit hit and miss but then thats always the case when something promises to help you discover new music you haven't heard before. On one station I managed to get from The Avalanches to Daniel Bedingfield, which wasn't unwelcome just surprising. You can't skip back to songs you've previosuly heard as it's offered as a radio station, this means the service only pays 15% of subscription to a music rights clearing house), it just plays song after song, although you can pause and skip past tracks you don't like.
The service is free for now but once it's fully up and running the free version will come down with adverts which can be removed by signing up for $36 a year or $12 a quarter. It's only available currently for U.S. citizens due to licensing laws and it requires users to register with a valid ZIP code after 1hr or so of listening. I suspect there will be plenty of users registered with the ZIP code of a popular early-90's teen TV show.
It's all web-based and you can accces it at www.pandora.com
Alternative services include last.fm which bases recommendations on it's community consciousness. I haven't tried last.fm yet but if anyone out there has and would like to voice their opinion you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org