April 17, 2008

Pandora.com vs. Last. Fm: The Battle of the Band Sites

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I’m parched. I have been otherwise occupied with lesser pursuits and so I have let my usual abundance of new music selections that flow through my sleek Hewlett Packard entertainment edition laptop’s speakers dry up like those creepy anthropomorphized California raisins. I’m desperate, and when I get desperate, I hit up the internet, my sensei, for solutions.

Lesson #1: Don’t open Pandora’s Box

(That’s what he said.)

No, but really, I wasted a great portion of last week giving that frigid ice queen Pandora.com chances to satisfy my needs. I plugged in Jorge Drexler , wanting to hear more awesome acoustic-electronica, preferably in Spanish, but I got Mexican pop. En serio. It’s literally the opposite of what I asked for. Then I plugged in Phoenix, a French rock band with some electronica instrumentation (heavy on the synths), hoping to find other French bands who sing in English with this type of set up (of which I later discovered there are many) and Pandowrecked gave me The Strokes and Kings of Leon. Gee, thanks. I’ve never heard of those bands before. When I plug in something relatively, and emphasis on relatively¸ obscure, I am hoping to find other music that is obscure to me. I’m well-acquainted with The Strokes—in fact Sun columnist Carolyn Byrne and I met [img_assist|nid=29565|title=|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]Nick Valensi and Fabrizio Morretti outside of Barton in fall of 2006. Nick made fun of my hometown and then Carolyn and I ran to north campus screaming “WE JUST MET THE STROKES!!!!” intermittently with screeches of glee. I’m pretty in tune with who they are already.

VERDICT: Thumbs down

Lesson #2: Last but not least…

When someone, something, somewhere gets in the way of my music, I tend to seethe, and I’m much less charming in those moments. My musically inclined friend Jon unwittingly stepped into my hurricane of anger via an instant messaging conversation, and he bore the brunt of my Pandora spew. Here is an abridged excerpt of that conversation:

11:40 PM me: [expletive] pandora.com is a piece of [expletive].

It only tells me stuff I already know.

11:41 PM Jon: Yeah.

It’s not so good with the non-major label stuff.

I tend to be of the mind that last.fm is better.

I was intrigued by this website of which he spoke and I’d nary heard the name before. Apparently last.fm creeps on your iTunes to see what you listen to and then just knows what you want to hear. I tried its radio for a while and it was basically allmusic.com moved from text to tunes. It was uncanny how good it was at picking up on what I wanted to hear when I plugged in the same two artists I mentioned above in Pandora—Phoenix pointed me in the direction of Tahiti 80 and only about 100 other awesome bands that I listened to on the custom station for … longer than I’d like to admit. The site definitely has much more of an international bent, too, which helped me in my quest to reprise my discovery of things as cool as Jorge Drexler: the user-to-user aspect that allows you to see which artists other people are listening to makes it easy to find out what people in Argentina or Uruguay (or France or Japan) like and check out stuff you would never find in a record store in the U.S. There’s a tagging feature to keep track of what you thought of songs, I can stalk my friends who use the site’s music habits, and the list of attributes in which last.fm kicks Pandora straight in the badonkadonk just goes on.

If you get the site and you wanna be mah friend (and you aren’t on your local sex offender registry) give me a shout. I’ll judge you like the hybrid combination of [img_assist|nid=29566|title=|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]Judge Joe Brown, Judge Judy and whoever the no-name guy is who presides over The People’s Court is.

VERDICT: Thumbs up