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Pandora and Its Challenge to Conventional AM/FM Radio

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I’ve always loved Rock ‘n Roll – I guess this is what happens when your older brother has spent forty years to date as a DJ. So when I downloaded the Pandora app to my iPhone, I naturally started with Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Chicago, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, the Beatles, and so forth. I was pleasantly surprised when the app then played songs from Traffic, Deep Purple, Jackson Browne, and a whole host of other bands, some of which I’d frankly forgotten.

Before I go any further, for the sake of those who are unfamiliar with one of the iPhone’s top apps, I should mention that what Pandora does is ask you to pick an artist, a group, or a song, and then will play music not only from your selection, but also from artists whose music is similar. But the user is soon surprised at the range of music that is presented. For instance, on my Jimmy Buffet ‘station’, I soon got music from Israel ‘Iz’ Kamakawiwo’ole, the most famous purveyor of Hawaii’s particular brand of music.

But I digress. I’ve developed a liking for anime, and I was turned on to Yoko Kanno, who has written songs for several of the most famous anime series in addition to a host of commercial jingles. Yoko Kanno is perhaps the most versatile musical artist I’ve ever heard – her styles range from grinding rock to techno to neoclassical to sweet romantic melodies. After all, who else is able to combine lyrics from English, Japanese, Russian, and Latin in the same song – Inner Universe – and make it sound good?

So while listening to her, Pandora also introduced me to U.K. born Imogen Heap, a Russian pair of girls called t.A.T.u., and Muse, who recently won the American Music Award for Alternative Rock. I have to wonder if their decision to make a song titled Supermassive Black Hole was to win a bet – but it’s a pretty cool song nonetheless.

But the biggest surprise was my introduction to Latin music, starting with Si Se (check out Mariposa(en Havana)), Julieta Venegas (Eres Para Mi), and Ceu (Malemolencia).

Of all the new music I’ve found, my second-favorite is Kuero, which doesn’t seem to have much on YouTube, but when you listen to their music it’s doggone hard to keep your feet still – their Latin hip-hop/Cuban-fusion songs are so rhythmic yet so easy-going…check out Vivo en el Monte if you can get it to play. But the very best is Bebe, a Spanish singer/songwriter from Valencia. Even though I don’t understand the Spanish language, it is so easy to feel the raw emotion she distills into her music – more than anyone I’ve ever heard with the probable exceptions of Aretha Franklin and perhaps Sade – yet does so with a soft and gravelly (yet so very compelling) voice that Alanis Morrisette would kill for. Check out her Latin Grammy-winning anthem Malo, and then enjoy Me Fui and Siempre Me Quedara. I promise you won’t be disappointed!  Again, I can’t understand much in the songs, but one can’t help but feel the rhythm and the emotion they contain.

And what does this all mean? It means that without the Pandora app (or some other similar Internet-based app with equal ease of use and utility), I would never have had my eyes opened to much of the music of the rest of the world. I’d still be stuck listening to the same old rock music over and over and over again…. I told my brother – the DJ with 40 years of experience – that this was the beginning of the end of radio. He laughed it off and said that radio would never go away – and I agree that radio won’t go away in our lifetimes. But as the Internet grows ever more prevalent in our daily lives, becoming ever more essential in everything we do, even radio is going to face competition it never had before. The competition of which I speak isn’t merely of music streaming over the net instead of the airwaves, but of the target audience being exposed to music they’ve never heard before. Instead of listening to the same old two or three or six stations all playing the same old songs – favorites, true, but still the same old songs – this ‘Pandora effect’ enables us to broaden our musical horizons far beyond what we’ve come to expect from local radio stations.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Oh, sure. Glenn, you are absolutely correct. Honestly, radio might possibly never go away,but, it hasn’t been a viable source of good music, for me, in 10+ years.

  • Glenn Contrarian


    And this bolsters my case of the long, slow death – or at least the debilitation – of radio.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “And Pandora was simply the start”

    Actually, Yahoo Music started it all (back in 2002?) including the rating system (star based). Plus, you could also be rated by the Yahoo Music Community based on a popularity of sorts. I think it was whether or not the community thought your choices were cool and, I believe, your page design.

    Still, Pandora was a nice replacement,but, I still find much more new music by way of music sharing blogs & news sites for particular genres. Though, most of the music is great for a one-shot listen, there aren’t too many bands that I care to own a whole CD by.

    You guys ( & gals – if reading) should try out Bandcamp. If you find something you dig, you’re actually supporting the artist directly by purchasing the music there (digitally). Plus, they offer the FLAC format…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Pandora was simply the start – the sites you’re referring to are evidence of the growing trend to which I am referring.

  • Good call Mike – I like how exploretunes shows you videos as well when available. Grooveshark is also a favorite, though I will say that Pandora was there for me in the beginning, so I appreciate it still.

  • Mike Phillips