I started listening to Pandora internet radio yesterday, and I think it's amazing! This site makes radio "stations" that play exactly what you want them to! But not the way an ipod plays the songs you want; with your mp3 player you own certain songs, and make playlists from your collection. With Pandora, you start a station with the name of an artist you like (or a song, if you want to be very specific), then Pandora creates a radio station based on the musical characteristics of the artist you named.

The first one I tried was Paul Simon. It started off with a Paul Simon song, then went on from there. And for over an hour, it played songs that coincidentally ARE in my CD collection with a few others that I knew by heart but didn't own. Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles were in heavy rotation in this station. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

But I was curious about how it would handle another style, so I typed in "Ace of Bass". But I didn't care for the first few songs that generated, so I switched to "Abba" and the station was great. Pop-y dance numbers, and I liked them all. Abba, of course, but also Blondie, A-ha, BeeGees, Journey, Fleetwood Mac (also on my Paul Simon station, but different songs). I suspect if I listened to that station long enough I'd hear the Go-Gos, and Culture Club, too. If I didn't, I could always specifically add them to the station definition.

It's really easy to use, and I'm very happy to hear new music this way. Because it's new music in EXACTLY the styles I personally like, not just anything that fits the general demographic of the regular radio stations I listen to. Pandora is just scary-accurate. In each station, every few songs is actually in my personal CD collection, so that's an indication of how much I like the songs Pandora is coming up with for me. It also tells me that I am remarkably consistent with the types of music I like, which I'm fine with. Terry thinks it's a little dull listening to music with so much of the same characteristics, but to me it's pleasing.

My latest station I created by basing it on Mazzy Star. At first I tried Cowboy Junkies, but like Ace of Bass, the first few songs let me know that this station was "off" just a bit. So I tried Mazzy Star, and the second song on the playlist was actually a Cowboy Junkies song. Lots of Radiohead and Cat Power (an artist with whom I was previously unfamiliar) in this station also. Today I added K. D. Lang to the station definition, and it has much more variety, but is still great. Now I also get Norah Jones, Bonnie Raitt, Fiona Apple, et al. A very good station for late-night listening while I knit.

I totally recommend Pandora.com for anyone. It's free if you don't mind listening to commercials every so often (like real radio, but waaaaay fewer). You can pay $36 for an annual subscription and get rid of the ads, and certain other limitations. I'll continue with the free version a while longer, and see if I want to subscribe, or if the free one will be fine for me. The free version is limited to 40 hours per month, although for a dollar you can extend that to listen as much as you want through the end of that month. So you can get all the music you want for $12/year, but you still have to listen to ads. I think if I'm going to pay at all I'd splurge and get rid of the ads.

And here's a cool widget they let me embed so anyone who wants to can listen to hear the stations that I made (go to the activity tab on the right, then expand the stations section):