I've been working at home a lot more since I became a freelancer earlier this year. For one of my clients, I spend most of the day connected to their VPN network. They don't use a standard VPN, instead they use software from a horrible company that used to manage my former company's IT. The point is, when I'm connected to their network, I can't access my NAS, which means I can't listen to any of my music when I'm working at home for this client. Obviously, this blows.
So what do I do? Lately I've started listening more and more to online radio - primarily using Pandora, Last.FM, and Slacker. Each of these has certain pros and cons, or "hots and nots" as I like to call them. I know these tools have been covered extensively elsewhere (including this fantastic article by Steve Krause on the different methodologies behind Pandora's & Last.FM's recommendation engines), so I thought I would just give a brief overview of my personal hots and nots for each one. [Editor's note: when listening to Pandora, I typically use Pandora.FM, which submits Pandora track data to your Last.FM profile.]
Pandora - Hot
- Lots of exposure to new bands.
- Really dig the focus on nerdy, music theory-based recommendations.
- Very simple interface, easy to create new stations and edit existing ones.
- Rating songs can throw your stations completely out of wack.
- Song selection can sometimes be just plain terrible, or I get too long a stretch with nothing I know.
- It can do too good a job and everything ends up sounding the same over a long period of time.
- Really easy to start a station.
- Song choices are very "comfortable" - never straying too too far from stuff you probably already know (this is also a drawback).
- Desktop player has a really nice interface and it's easy to see artist information.
- Doesn't remember my stations.
- Free membership doesn't come with "your radio" - the one where it plays you stuff based on all your past song-playing history.
- Not enough exposure to new bands.
- Music selection is pretty good - nice mix of stuff I know and stuff I don't.
- Ability to customize your stations and ban certain artists or include certain artists.
- Ability to set how "familiar" you want the music to be - i.e. very close to your seed artists or farther away.
- The interface is confusing and inconsistent.
- Despite claims to the contrary, I couldn't turn off their stupid "DJ" who kept cutting in to tell me how great the Slacker portable player is.
- Not enough range in bands - I heard the same bands over and over again on some stations.
When those tools wear out their sonic welcome, I often turn to woxy.com (thanks to Catherine Andrews for turning me on to this) which usually does a great job of keeping my ears happy for several hours at a time.
What do you listen to online? Do you use one of the big 3 tools I talked about? Do you have a favorite online radio station? What do you listen to during the day?