It’s often said that music is the soundtrack of our lives, but it’s just as easy to track our personal journeys through the methods we use to play those sounds.
I’m old enough to remember playing my parents’ 45s and full-length albums, and the curiosity I felt when the 8-track player entered the scene. When Bob Marley died in 1981, my dad broke down and bought a cassette player so he could tape all of the radio stations playing tributes. It was probably a good 10 years after that before I could afford a CD player and CDs, and a few years later when “MP3” became a part of my vernacular, names like Napster and Limewire entered the fray. And of course, the iPod came along and shattered all of it to pieces.
I may be a little late to this party, but this past weekend, I discovered the next evolution in my personal musical education — Pandora.com. Nuff respect to the Sun-Times‘ Andy Ihnatko for featuring this site on Saturday. The concept is simple. You type in a band or song that you like, and the site creates a channel for you, and plays music similar to it, based on a complex set of algorithms they’ve constructed. In a word, it’s genius. Without typing in anything specificaly related to Jimi Hendrix, it started playing some rare Jimi cuts that I love. And when I typed in some sample-heavy music, such as bands like Breakestra, it started playing the original sampled 70s funk songs. Whole new world. It’s like the “You Might Like This” feature on Amazon.com on steroids. Plus, you can bookmark the song and artists which are kept on file for you, with specific links to buy it from Amazon or iTunes to create your instant playlist. (Tip: Buy from Amazon, which gives you the actual .mp3 file, not a protected version.)
My lady friend has already seen the writing on the wall — there’s a new gal in town, and her name is Pandora.