Have you played with Pandora yet?  At the urging of a colleague I gave it go tonight, and am bowled over.

What is Pandora?  I’ll crib this description from the FAQ: “Pandora is a music discovery service designed to help you find and enjoy music that you’ll love.  It’s powered by the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken.  Just tell us one of your favorite songs or artists and we’ll launch a streaming station to explore that part of the music universe.”

So I chose The Zombies, my all-time favorite band.  Then Pandora played a song that represents that band – how it knew A Rose For Emily is among my favorites I’ll never know.  It was kinda creepy.

After giving that song a thumbs-up, I listened to Pursuit, by The Souls of Inspyration, a band with which I’m not familiar.  Why this song?  “Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features a subtle use of paired vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, paired vocal harmony [sic] and melodic songwriting.”  Spot on!

Next up were The Who’s 1921, Smell of Incense by Southwest F.O.B., and Rock Me On The Water by Jackson Browne, all of which received thumbs-up from me.  I didn’t care much for Brian Wilson’s Wonderful, mostly due to his shaky voice.  As soon as I voted thumbs-down, Pandora played the next song: Grey and Black by Tempest.

Just to give you an idea of the depth of the catalog, here’re the songs suggested thus far for my Zombies station:
Christmas, Your Humble Suitor
Fresh Air, I’ve Lost My Faith
The Status Quo, Pictures of Matchstick Men
The Zombies, Beechwood Park (another favorite!)
Hunger, Open Your Eyes

After Pictures of Matchstick Men I was prompted to register for continued free access, which I promptly did.  This seems a small sacrifice for such a valuable service.

As one who constantly discovers new music using Rhapsody (disclaimer: my employer recently signed a Rhapsody distribution deal with RealNetworks), I’m always looking for smart recommendations.  Rhapsody’s catalog includes some 1.3 million tracks, compared with Pandora’s 300,000.  Yet the latter recommended artists I’ve never seen on Rhapsody, but you can bet I’ll now look.

So how will Pandora survive?  Clicking on each song spawns a small menu that enables users to buy the track from iTunes or the album from Amazon.  Also, there’s a tower ad in the right rail (right now it’s for iTunes).  Users can subscribe to an ad-free version for $36/year.

Rest assured I’ll comment on Pandora more later – right now I’m just enjoying The Raspberries.