Remember back in the day when the general thought was that radio rocked…except for the commercials? Then along came MP3 players, and we finally had that. The only problem, of course, was being limited to the music we owned. Without radio, there’s less room for experimentation. Then along came Pandora, the streaming Internet radio service which breaks songs down into their most fundamental attributes and plays songs based on what you like. After a long wait, we finally got the BlackBerry Pandora app about three months ago. I’ve been using it constantly ever since, and it’s high time we posted a walk-through and review of the application.
Creating a station
Once you create your account, Pandora will prompt you to name a band, song, or composer you like. This is used as the base for your station. So just think of your favorite band in the world (mine’s Led Zeppelin). After entering in the name you’ll see a screen with some options for matching artists and songs. Click the one you want and Pandora will take you to your new station. More often than not, this will kick off with a song from the band you selected. From here you can do a number of things. First, you can rate the song up or down. If you rate it up Pandora makes a note in its database and the computer learns a bit more about your musical likes. It will attempt to play more songs with the attributes of the song you like. Second, you can find out why Pandora picked the song for you. For instance, when Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix came up, Pandora explained: “We’re playing this track because it features acid rock qualities, extensive vamping, minor key tonality, electric guitar riffs, an electric guitar solo, a gravelly male vocalist, an emotional male lead vocal performance and many other similarities identified in the Music Genome Project.” Unfortunately, one thing you can’t do is add another artist to your channel. This helps Pandora make even more specific recommendations. You can still log into the Web version and perform that task, since your settings carry over. You can create a new station, though, which can play a different brand of music. Just select the option Create a New Station.
Perhaps the greatest feature of Pandora is the ability to rate the songs it plays. If you like the song, rate it Thumbs Up and you’ll hear more songs from that artist and more songs with similar attributes. Rate it down and Pandora will play fewer songs by that artist and fewer songs with similar attributes. Additionally, if you rate two songs by an artist Thumbs Down, Pandora will cease playing any songs by said artist. The only way to re-add them is to do it manually (using the Web interface). Rating a song Thumbs Down will skip that song and move onto the next one. You can also choose to skip a song and not rate it by hitting the track forward button. However, as of late May 2009 Pandora has instituted a new policy for skipping songs. All channels under an account count for the same, and users are allowed to skip 12 songs in a 24-hour period. If a song is rated Thumbs Down and the user has skips remaining, a skip is used. You could rate a song Thumbs Down if you have no skips left and don’t want to hear the song, but that can cause some unintended consequences. You’ll notice as you continue to rate songs that you get a wider variety of music. This is because Pandora will gradually branch out the songs it chooses for you as it accumulates more information about your musical tastes. For instance, I created a Led Zeppelin channel almost two years ago, featuring a bevy of classic rock bands as my selected artists. At first it played mostly classic rock, but as I used the service more I started to see more modern tunes. A few months ago it started playing Nirvana songs. Guess what? I love Nirvana. So not only did Pandora branch out, but it got the selection right. This is the most rewarding benefit of using the service over a long period of time.
Additional features on the Web
As noted above, the BlackBerry Pandora application is limited in ways that the Web version is not. Here are a few features you can access by logging into Pandora.com using the account information you created when you downloaded the app.
- Don’t play this song for a month. If you like a particular artist or song, but are just sick of hearing it (Pandora does have a propensity to replay songs), you can choose to not hear the song for a month. This is great because it doesn’t cost you a Thumbs Down rating for the song (though it will cost you a skip). This option can be found in the Menu portion of each song listing.
- Add additional artists. Want Pandora to get a real good idea of your musical tastes? Add more artists to your channel. Just select the channel you want to edit, and click “add variety.” You can enter more and more artists you like, which means Pandora has a better sense of what to recommend. They even provide a recommended artists list based on what you’ve already told them.
- Move song to another station. You can use this option to expand other stations using the current song. I haven’t ever used it, but it seems neat.
- Rename, share, and edit station. The Web version allows you to perform these functions, while they’re still not in the mobile version. Not big things, of course. I can easily live with doing them when at home, rather than on the fly.
Closing the Pandora application
Before wrapping up, I’d like to make one last recommendation. If you’re done using Pandora for a while, make sure to hit Menu and select Shut Down Pandora. This will completely close the application. Selecting Close will just move the application to the background. If you stop it and try to pick up the service later, you’ll be able to finish a song if you stopped in the middle, but after that Pandora will have to log you out, and then you’ll have to log back in. The process takes up time, and it’s quite annoying. Selecting Shut Down Pandora will make your life a bit easier.
Download the BlackBerry Pandora app
You can check out our BlackBerry Pandora review for the link to download the BlackBerry Pandora application for free. If you don’t think it’s the service for you, you can check out other BlackBerry streams in our complete guide to listening to music on your BlackBerry.