I have a love-hate relationship with radio. I love when a song comes on that I enjoy, whether it’s one I’m already familiar with or something new. I hate everything else, including songs in heavy rotation, announcers using compression mics, commercials commercials, commercials, and incessant announcements about many songs in a row a station will play before brutalizing me with commercials, commercials, commercials.
I have various writing moods, and not all of them are music compatible. When I’m in the mood for a backing track, however, having a steady stream of songs I don’t have to manage, and that won’t be interrupted by histrionics, feels good. I can’t say I’m more productive while I’m listening to music, but there’s something about music that makes it easier to find a writing groove, and particularly a rewriting groove.
I have a lot of music on my computer, ripped from old CD’s, but even choosing which tracks I want to hear can be a pain. I either have to invest time in creating playlists that go quickly stale or I have to choose something new when each CD ends. I know there are a lot of music options available to me over the internet but until recently I didn’t know somebody had solved all my music problems in a way that would leave me utterly satisfied. And all for free.
If you haven’t tried Pandora yet I urge you to give it a look and a listen. Not only is it a free streaming music service with no commercials, you can program your own stations by adding artists that define the music that station will play. The algorithms behind the selections are not obvious, which I like, but with a little trial and error you can easily create a station that serve up a good mix of artists you included as well as songs from similar artists.
My main list has about twenty artists on it — mostly late 90’s alternative rock. I’ve added a few new artists based on songs that were played outside my playlist, and I’ve removed two artists to keep the station from wandering too far afield. On the whole, however, I couldn’t be more satisfied with the result.
Which leads me to the only caution I have about this service. It’s been a constant in my life that anything I really enjoy disappears soon afterward. If I find a favorite restaurant it either closes or burns to the ground. If I find a favorite food item in the local grocery it is soon discontinued for lack of purchases by anyone other than me. So it stands to reason that by enjoying (let alone recommending) Pandora I am ensuring it will either quickly die or go to a monthly subscription price, at which point I’ll think long and hard about paying for it before deciding not to.
Until then, however, enjoy.
— Mark Barrett
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