Music service directed by users' preferences

Online music discovery service Pandora, unveiled Monday, creates radio stations based on users' preferences for specific songs or artists.

If you know the kind of music or musicians you like, online music discovery service Pandora, could be right up your alley. The service, which debuted Monday, builds up tailored streams of music based on a user's stated preference for an artist or a song.

Pandora Media, formerly known as Savage Beast Technologies, based its new service on the Music Genome Project, the company's close to six-year study of the 300,000 songs of more than 10,000 artists undertaken by 30 musician analysts, Pandora Media said in a release. The analysts rate each song across 400 musical traits including melody, harmony, rhythm, orchestration and lyrics. In this way, the linkages between pieces of music aren't strictly tied to a specific genre or artist, meaning users may discover artists and songs they're unfamiliar with. It takes 20 minutes to 30 minutes to process each song, according to information on the company's Web site.

The first 10 hours of Pandora are free. After that, subscriptions costs US$3 per month or US$36 per year. Subscribers can set up a maximum of 100 online radio stations tuned to their preferences and further tailor the selections by giving a thumbs up or down to each song played. Users can click a "why is this song playing" button to find out the reasoning behind the company's team of analysts rating a particular song as similar to a user's original stated preference.

Due to music licensing restrictions, the Pandora service can't play songs by request, according to information on the company's Web site. Instead, the service uses the song title as the basis for building up a radio station, with the specific song likely to show up at some point on that station. Licensing constraints also prevent the service from offering a rewind function. Pandora has links to Amazon.com's Web site and to Apple Computer's iTunes digital music service so users can buy the music they hear.

Pandora runs on Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems via Internet Explorer 6 or Firefox Web browsers. It also runs on Apple's Mac OS X version 10.3 operating system with Safari or Firefox Web browsers.

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