Pandora Internet Radio (and Internet Radio on the PS3)Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
The Sony PlayStation 3 is an excellent media center for your home. Hook it up directly to your theater system and you’ve got a very capable system that’s ready to pump DVD and Blu-Ray movies, music CDs, MP3 files, and other audio through your speakers. You can even access and play internet videos via sites such as YouTube and Hulu through the PS3. I was so impressed with the meda playback capabilities of the PS3 that I moved all of my music over and set it up as the primary media playback device in my home. As a technology guy who promotes the PC on a daily basis, moving anything to a device away from a computer is an important thing. I never expected that anything would ever take the crown away from a computer when it comes to media playback, especially for party music, but the built in browser on the PS3 changed my mind.
While digging deeper into the idea of the PS3 as a complete replacement for computer music and media playack, I discovered the one flaw with the PS3 as a media center, and it’s not a little flaw. In my book, this is a HUGE problem! The PlayStation 3 currently lacks any way to play content from the major streaming internet radio stations. Shoutcast, IceCast, AOL Radio, etc. Basically, anything Windows Media Player or Quicktime based can’t be played on the PlayStation. We’re talking about 95% of the internet radio right now! I’m a Winamp guy, I lean heavily on internet radio to find new music for my collection and nothing beats a good internet radio station for a party. In my opinion, the PS3 needed this feature in a big way if it was to be taken seriously.
An exhaustive internet search turned up a way for me to play internet radio stations on a PSP, but not on the PS3. Strange, isn’t it? I can only hope that Sony will, some time in the future, impliment the same PSP internet radio tools for the PS3 as they have for the PSP. But I can’t wait for some time in the future, I’m not patient when it comes to things like this. I needed to find a way that I could play internet radio through my media center NOW. As it turns out, the reason that sites like YouTube and Hulu work on the PS3 web browser is because they are flashed based websites and the PS3 browser supports flash just fine. So the search was on again, this time for internet radio stations that are flash based.
Enter Pandora Radio and the Music Genome Project. Pandora Radio is a tool that I’ve always dreamed about, looked for, and turned away empty handed in disbelief that something like it didn’t exist. So imagine my excitement upon discovering the Pandora.com website while looking for a good Flash based internet radio station. Pandora is too good to be true, I’m still pinching myself. Pandora Radio is not just the best internet radio station ever invented (Quote me if you like), I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best tool to find new music. EVER. Like I was saying, I use internet radio mostly to find new music to add to my existing collection. I could listen to normal internet radio for weeks and find only 3 or 4 new songs that I’m interested in paying money for. With Pandora, I’ve found 30 new songs that I really, really like in only 8 hours of playtime. I better tear up my credit card now before the temptation to spend a fortune on iTunes gets the best of me. 🙂
In a nutshull, when you first visit Pandora Radio it asks you to enter in the name of a song to create a new ‘radio station’. It then takes the unique ID that the Music Genome Project has assigned for that piece of music and goes out to find a bunch of other songs that you’re probably going to like. The result is a radio station with a ton of cool music, a lot of which you probably haven’t heard before. You can bookmark songs (which is a handy way to create a list of songs for you to buy from iTunes, link provided in Pandora). As you listen to music, you’re asked to give it a thumbs up (you like the song) or a thumbs down (you don’t like it). Over time, they save your preferences and build a better list of music for you each time based on your preferences.
Take my advice, create about 15 stations, each one based on one of your favorite songs. If all of the individual stations aren’t cool enough, once you’ve saved a good number of different types of songs and stations, there’s a ‘QuickMix’ Station. This station will take songs from all of your other radio stations and mixes them together. What you’re left with is a radio station that contains virtually 100% cool music, music that you love and music that isn’t always ‘popular’ but you’ll love anyway. And to top it all off, every station is 100% commercial free! There are absolutely no annoying jockeys or nonsense to get in the way of the music. It’s pure music, all the time. This is perfect for parties, no one will be able to tell that you’re listening to internet radio instead of an iTunes playlist.
Whoever invented Pandora came up with a brilliant system and deserves my thanks. I’ve wanted a music tool like this for at least ten years. It’s opened my eyes and ears to the fact that there is a ton of great music out there that I’ve never heard of before. And the icing on the cake, for me, it’s flash based and you can play it on the PS3 built in web browser. Pandora is simple enough to use, there’s really no reason to explain it here. Check it out for yourself! Hook this up to a really good sound system and let the good times roll!