Closing Pandora's box

I am spending this evening catching up on some of the emails I received while I was away down under but have not had a chance to read or reply to. One is from Pandora.

Pandora is basically a free internet-based music website, that creates custom-built “radio stations”, based around the music you tell it you like. It’s an ingenious system – you tell it the bands or styles you like, it plays you similar stuff, and you modify the selection by telling you which of the songs you like and which you don’t.

Not only is it a great way to ensure you only listen to music you like, but it also is a great way of discovering new music. It seems to have a vast database, and for instance it supplied me with a number of names who are similar to Ulrich Schnauss which I want to follow up.

However, the email from Pandora, which is based in the USA, contained bad news. Due to boring and complicated legal reasons, they have had to restrict access to the site, meaning that anyone outside the USA can no longer access it.

It’s a real shame, because the real losers are small and obscure bands whose music is showcased in a way it might not otherwise be, and I enjoyed discovering artists I would never have heard of were it not for Pandora.

Like with much of the opposition to free music sharing, it seems to be about the record companies, rather than the bands themselves. You rarely hear new and emerging bands complaining about file-sharing: these days, and thanks to things like MySpace, free music is how they make themselves heard. Conversely, it’s the commercial interests of record companies that leads to most of the opposition to free music.

It’s a shame that Pandora has been forced to restrict itself like this. But for those readers based in the land of pretzels, you might find it an interesting way of discovering new music.

I hope the restriction on the rest of us is lifted one day soon.

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