What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the site's social networking component lets users follow each other's activity and shares your listening choices with other users, unless you change your privacy settings. Registration is free (but required) to use the site, and users can identify themselves by listing their hometown, school, and employer -- plus a brief bio -- on their profile.
What's it about?
Internet-radio site PANDORA puts its own twist on a concept started in the earlier days of the Web, when sites like Spinner (which was ultimately bought and absorbed by AOL Music) streamed free, theme-based music blocks. Pandora is organized around \"stations,\" which users initiate from a home screen where they type in the name of a favorite artist, song, or composer. The service then compiles a one-hour music stream that includes the name you entered along with songs/artists/composers that have similar musical qualities. The kicker comes in the form of music-licensing laws that prohibit you from specifying the exact order in which your station plays those songs/artists/composers. Though you can fast-forward through your station, you can't pick exactly what comes next -- and you can't rewind.
Is it any good?
PANDORA can help introduce you to new artists whose songs share common musical elements with singers and bands you like. The site uses info from the Music Genome Project, which has been analyzing harmony, rhythm and other track details since 2000 to identify song similarities. You can create up to 100 unique stations; just key in an artist (anything from Beck to Beethoven), and you'll hear a mix of that artist's tunes and other music. You have less control than on sites like Spotify -- Pandora only lets you skip a few tracks an hour, and you can't ask to hear certain songs -- but that's half the fun. Pandora has a nifty habit of combining familiar favorites with hidden musical gems from relatively unknown musicians and bands from other eras. Click on the thumbs up or down icons to indicate which you like. Pandora uses the input to customize your stations.
There is a catch: As on many music streaming sites, the profiles and site usage info aren't as private as some parents might like. Strangers can easily access your stations and listening activity and can post comments on your profile. You can hide your profile and listening info if you alter the default privacy settings -- but all the stations you've created will still show up if someone searches for you on the site with the email address you used to register for Pandora.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about constructive ways you can express your individual music tastes -- if your friend loves a song you can't stand, how can you share your feelings without hurting hers?
The site lists common elements that the songs it plays on each station have in common. What musical elements do you notice when you listen to a song (the rhythm, instruments, etc.)?
Pandora plays uncensored music (unless you alter your profile settings). When a song on the radio has a word or two bleeped out or removed, do you notice it's gone? If you hear a word or term in a song that you think or know is a swear, does it make you want to say it more?