Sprint Opens Pandora’s Box

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U.S. mobile operator Sprint has announced a deal with music streaming provider Pandora to offering personalized music streams to users of selected Sprint Power Vision Phones based on a user’s individual music preferences.

The Pandora project has been around for a while now, and has accumulated some 6.5 million users largely on word-of-mouth. Based on research from the Music Genome Project, users simply enter the names of artists and songs they like, and Pandora creates a customized music stream based on music that has similar qualities (based on hundreds of attributes), and on preferences of other Pandora users who say they like similar music. The result is a highly personalized music stream that many users find quickly matches their particular tastes and preferences. Users can create up to 100 personalized stations using Pandora, and access them via the Sprint phone or online via Pandora’s site.

The service is available on five Sprint phones right now (the LG Fusic, the Samsung A900 and A920, and Sanyo’s 7500 and 8400), with support for another five phones expected to roll out in the next month. Users listening to Pandora stream will see information about the current song, and can scroll forward and back to view details of other songs in the stream. Users can also vote "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to indicate whether they liked a track; Pandora will further customize the station based on the user’s feedback.

"Pandora is like that one friend who everyone wants to have—someone who really knows and loves music and who can recommend a long list of bands and songs after you mention what you’ve been listening to lately," said Jeff Luther, Sprint’s director of entertainment wireless data. "Pandora is a great way to break out of the same songs on your playlist and hear some new music that you may have never found otherwise."

Like other online radio services, Pandora has been facing significant business difficulties, with the RIAA seeking to substantially increase royalties to be paid by online broadcasters. Pandora has recently been forced by licensing issues to block access to the Pandora service to listeners outside the United States.

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