Pandora_picIt took me about 15 seconds to become a Pandora convert.

Pandora is a free on-line music library with a big difference; you don’t get to choose the music you listen to. Rather you enter a track, composer or musical genre that suits your mood and it serves you up a playlist of music of that ilk. It is, if you will, a radio station that only plays music you want to listen to.

And if your mood swings from tragic country songs to thrash metal, all you do is create a second ‘radio station’ in your profile and there it is.

Now I mainly listen to classical music and most of Pandora’s offerings are anything but, yet I still found a heap of music I liked, much of which I’d never heard before.

For example, I entered Karl Jenkins in the menu and it started me out with one of his compositions, and then moved onto Philip Glass. Then came a composer I’d never heard of named Morten Lauridsen. There followed part of the soundtrack of Gladiator and Edward Scissorhands, and then some Enya.

All of this was entirely acceptable, but the best came from two other composers I’d never heard of, Christopher Tin and Zoe Keating. I liked them so much I clicked on the link and bought the CDs from Amazon.

Then I entered Arvo Part and got some more Philip Glass, some violin music from China and a bit of Eric Satie as well as Mr Part.

I was able to trip Pandora up was when I went looking for Bulgarian chants. Confused, it offered me traditional Bulgarian folk music, Gregorian chants and some very weird contemporary stuff from a European band heavily into eye makeup.

The thing I most liked was the sheer volume of new music I was hearing. I often listen to the request program on Classic FM because I sometimes hear interesting, unfamiliar music, but on Pandora I was getting these every second or third track. And as each track played there was a list of similar composers to try out.

Further, I was able to refine my playlist by clicking ‘thumbs up’ for tracks I liked and ‘thumbs down’ for ones I didn’t. As the computer gets to know me, so I’ll be clicking the thumbs down less. That’s the theory anyway.

I can only think that if I was into hip hop, dubstep or punk rather than stuffy conservatism the choices would be far wider.

Sign up for the free service and you get a short ad every few tracks. If you take the subscription ($36 per year or $3.99 per month) the ads disappear and you get higher download quality as well as a few other features.

Pandora is available for computer, iPhone or android, iPod Touch and several other platforms, and most listeners use it on mobile devices. And there are a lot of listeners – at last count 175 million.

And now, 175 million and one.

Published January 2013