Pandora vs. Last.fm

I have had literally dozens of emails from people I know, people who read my blog, friends in the venture business, all recommending Pandora for music disocvery.

Pandora was created by the music genome project and you tell it about some music you like and its starts playing music.  Kind of like a personal radio station on your computer.  Sounds great right?  Well everyone seems to love it but me.

I tried it when it first came out, I even paid for a year in advance (something you don’t have to do anymore).  I killed it within 10 minutes.  It just wasn’t coming up with stuff I wanted to listen to.

About every five emails I get suggesting I try Pandora, I give it another try.  But it’s always the same.  I just can’t get into it.

Contrast that with Last.fm.  I absolutely love Last.fm.  I started out using last.fm (in its incarnation as audioscrobbler) to spy on my music listening habits and report them to me and others.  You will see some of that data on the left sidebar of my blog in the big red badges.  They show what I listened to the most last week and the music I have listened to the most since I started using last.fm.

Then slowly but surely I got sucked into the system.  First it was the social networking.  I found some friends of mine in the service and connected to them.  I check out what they are listening to via last.fm.  And I’ve found people I’ve never met in last.fm who have similar taste in music to me.

For some reason, I was never compelled to download the last.fm player.  I have iTunes, Rhapsody , and emusic and that gives me a fair amount of leeway to sample whatever music I want to check out on my computer.  But several weeks ago, I downloaded the last.fm player.

You can listen to personal radio which is based on the music you have listened to.  You can listen to neighbor radio which is based on the music your neighbors (people with similar taste to yours) listen to.  Or you can listen to "loved tracks" radio which is based on the music you’ve tagged as "love this track".

I generally listen to neighbor radio and I have been blown away by this service.  I get music I really enjoy all the time, but its often music I have never heard or music that I have heard and really love.

Last.fm is great.  It requires a number of things from you.  First, that you listen to a lot of music on your computer.  If you don’t there is no way for last.fm to capture your music listening data.  Second, that you download the plugin so that they can in fact capture your music listenting data.  And third, that you are interested in an online social experience for discovering music.

Pandora is a lot simpler and maybe that’s why people like it so much. But for me, last.fm is a lot better.  I don’t want a computer recommending music to me.  I want other people, people who share my taste in music, recommending music to me.