Pandora, Please Don't Try Too Hard To Be Last.fm

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I have a special place in my heart for music streaming site Pandora. It was one of the first startups profiled on TechCrunch, back in the summer of 2005.

Pandora creates radio stations for users based on input on the songs they like and don’t like. Over time it learns about what you like and tends to play exactly what you are looking for. But it also plays new music that it thinks you will like – I’ve discovered a few new bands from listening to the service. It is usually playing in the background when I blog. In short, I think Pandora is just about perfect in its current form.

I imagine, though, that Pandora has a long term goal of achieving a liquidity event on par with Last.fm’s $280 million sale to CBS earlier this year. And to do that, they seem to think that they need to be a lot more like that service.

Pandora is releasing a batch of new features tonight under the name “Pandora Extras.” They are saying “listening is just the start” (Frankly, I think it’s just enough). The new features are starting to make the service look more and more like Last.fm. They include:

  • make friends with other Pandora users (it’s a social network!)
  • recommendations of new artists and songs based on what you are hearing
  • points you to other Pandora listeners who have similar tastes
  • 100 new “finely tuned genre stations”

Two of the new features are clearly designed to make Pandora more like Last.fm (recommendations based on what others are listening to, and creating a social network). The second bullet above is a way to branch out from a given radio station, and I like it. I’m indifferent to the new pre-made radio stations.

As long as Pandora doesn’t screw up the core listening experience, I’m with them. But if they dilute that experience because they feel they need to follow the current trend of turning everything into a social network, I will be the first to bail on them.

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