I'm one of those people who enjoy having music going in the background to help me concentrate.

Unlike some I seem to operate better with techno, drum'n'bass, dance music - interspersed with some more mellow moments for balance and a change of pace.

While my iPod contains a fairly large collection, and I do make the effort to keep it close to hand on my PC I'm too lazy to ever sit down and create themes playlists.

Last.FM and Songbird have been tools that in the past I've used to help out with this - their recommendations and radio selections have been good to fit a mood or a theme (and with Last.FM the recommendation radio function works quite well) but recently I discovered Pandora...

Pandora is a music recommendation service, but it goes way beyond the simple "person X likes A and B so if person Y likes B and C so let's recommend C to X" type of algorithm to break music down by a scary number of metrics and compare to find a similar "groove". They call is musical genetics.

Pandora then uses the musical genome to make recommendations from as few as one track but the more information you give it the better it gets.

Personally I'd like to see a couple of small changes in the way it works:

  • It lives in a web page, not a stand-alone app. They do this to manage the ad experience around it (gotta pay for the service somehow). I'd prefer an option as a subscriber for it to live in a Vista sidebar gadget or run as a stand-alone systray app
  • Because it's a webpage it doesn't react to my media keyboard keys. Because they're streaming only it's never going to be a full experience, but supporting vol +/-, ffwd and a couple of keys to vote thumbs up/down for a track would be awesome
  • Doesn't scan my existing music or Last.FM scrobble list to get a fuller picture of what I like. While that could be a downside if I've been listening to a lot of rubbish recently it would be nice to be able to suck some of that info in
  • Doesn't scrobble what I've listened to out to Last.FM. I really like having a listing of what I've been listening to (and I like it even more if it's living in my Windows Live Messenger "currently listening" status area and Windows Live Writer "Currently Listening" plug in ;)

Oh, and the best bit is that Pandora now powers MSN Radio so you get all the personalization and recommendation goodness there as well. Now if only Sirius could work out a way to integrate this sort of technology....

Update: I've just discovered some really useful hints to get more out of Pandora over at LifeHacker.

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