By Steve Outing
I can’t stand commercial FM radio stations. Between the boring playlists, the DJs who talk too much, the incessant commercials, and the lack of a way to know what song or artist is currently playing … yuck. Which is why I’m a satellite-radio customer (Sirius, but not because of Howard Stern). But even though Sirius is oh-so-much-better than FM radio, it’s far from perfect. I find that I flip back and forth between only two stations; the rest go to waste. (Still, I find it worth the money to avoid the commercials. I really despise commercials; it’s been that way ever since I bought a TiVo and discovered I didn’t have to put up with them any longer.)
So, anyway, thanks to Steffen, I just tried out Pandora. And I’m in love with it. Wow! This is what radio should be. The service (free with commercials — though I’ve yet to hear any — or $36 a year ad-free) allows you to create your own radio stations (up to 100). Create a new station; put in a song you really like; then Pandora creates a radio station that plays songs similar to it. You can add more songs to tweak the station’s music selections, and give a thumbs-up or -down to songs as they play.
Here’s the best part: You can skip a song if you don’t like it (but only so many an hour; that’s a licensing restriction forced on Pandora by the music industry). Still, I can’t do that with Sirius. And my custom-made Pandora stations are so much more satisfying than what Sirius offers, since I guide the selection.
Of course, you can’t yet get Pandora on your car radio. But when that’s eventually possible, satellite-radio companies will have some tough competition. As it is, I’m beginning to question the value of Sirius, since (pre-Pandora) I listened to it more on my PC than in the car. My PC is now tuned to Pandora and probably will stay there. (And next on my wish list: a Squeezebox to get Pandora radio stations on my home stereo.)