Owning My Music But Using Pandora

January 04, 2012 by Gabe | [mmd] |

I haven’t made the leap to the Spotify or Rdio train yet. I’ve watched as a lot of people have made that transition but I’m not ready to get onboard. I still buy at least one album a week from Amazon or iTunes.[1]

Someone might think that I’m an old man scared by new technologies, but I love my Pandora subscription too. So what’s my deal? Here’s my deal:

  1. Curation
  2. Persistence
  3. Recommendations

Curated Content

My iTunes music has been curated and rated over many years. I’m pretty good about poping open my player to add or modify a star rating as my tastes evolves. Curation in iTunes provides real benefits to a Smart Playlist, of which, I have many. I have a playlist of just my favorites. I also have a playlist of 3-star songs. This is the purgatory list. Usually songs on this list get promoted or demoted within a year of ocassional re-listens. Of course, I never listen to one star songs. That’s mostly my wifes collection.

My Smart Playlists go beyond just star-ratings. Up until iCloud ruined my playlist party[2], I had playlists for songs added within the past week, month, year. A playlist for songs with +3 stars that have been added within the last six months (New Favorites). A nice one for commutting[3] is the “+3-stars but not played in the past 9 months”

iTunes meta-data is pretty extensive and Smart Playlists provide a number of boolean combinations to provide highly tailored content of music that fits my tastes.

Sure I can rate music on a streaming service too. But then there’s bullet point number two.

Smart Playlist

Reliable Sources

Start-ups come and go all of the time. What’s more, their business models change overnight either by a pivot or acquisition. I just don’t trust them with the effort I put into curating their music. What happens if Rdio can’t renew their terms with music labels? What if their acquired by a dead-end like Yahoo? I’ve spent years of collecting and tagging my music collection and I can not bear to start over from the beginning.[4]

But Rdio, Spotify and Pandora provide something I can never achieve with Smart Playlists: music discovery


Since I listen to my iTunes collection, podcasts, and Audible books exclusively, I get very few inputs for new music. Despite than the copious “recommendations” from Kung fu grippe there are not a lot of sources of new music I have time for. That’s why I love Pandora.

Pandora lets me create a station from a song or band that I know I already like and get an endless stream of new but related music. By occasionally tapping a thumbs up or down button, I can customize the experience. I can also tag music I want to buy and add it to my iTunes collection. I’d love to see Apple provide more integration[5] with Pandora so that I can seamlessly create new stations from iTunes but I’m pretty happy with the service.

So, I’ll let the cool kids have their fun with Rdio and Spotify. I’ll stand over here clutching my music collection and digging into Pandora. Just stay the hell off of my lawn!

  1. By “albums” I mean at least 9–10 songs. I do buy entire albums, but only if I think they are worth their price.  ↩
  2. iCloud has screwed with all of my date-added smart lists on iOS devices. Everything received a new date when iCloud pushed out the 256-bit version of a matched song, according to iOS. It’s a good problem to have, but I miss my old smart lists when on the go.  ↩
  3. That is when I’m not listening to Audible.  ↩
  4. That sounds like paranoia to some people but I’ve already been there with movies (Netflix) and photos (Flickr)  ↩
  5. Let’s face it, Ping and iTunes recommendations should have died on the side of Mt. Taygetus shortly after birth. Instead they seem content to slowly and painfully slide into dementia.  ↩