Pandora.com customizes a playlist according to your musical appetite — and plays music from popular artists at no cost to the user and without requiring software downloads (looks like it is ad-funded). It features a tool which allows you to vote on each song, so your playlists can become more customized as you listen (akin to iTunes “genius playlist” functionality). While you can’t take the music with you on the go, it is a perfect tool when you are at a public computer jonesing for some background tunes.
Of course, there is science behind the technology, with Pandora being the result of years of work by Tim Westergren and other folks with the Music Genome Project. They listened to songs of tens of thousands of different artists – ranging from popular to obscure – and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. From that, they’ve develop profiles for genres of music and assign songs and artists with those genre attributes.
For example, a song by (my fav) Spanish rock band Estopa has been assigned the attributes “male lead vocals, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, Brazilian influences, afro-latin influences, organ playing
prominent percussion” — other songs (and artists) with the same attributes are then assembled and played on a customized playlist, or “radio station” in pandora-speak.
[Thanks Brian and Vanessa!]