In Greek legend, Pandora got a nasty surprise when she opened the box that unleashed all the evils of mankind. I got an equally nasty surprise when at the weekend, I surfed into the online music application of the same name and found that it was no longer available to users outside of the USA. In actual fact, users outside the US had been banned since May although press releases to announce the news were sent out much later, such as January in the UK. This was quite a disappointment because Pandora used to be one of my favourite online music apps that served as a good alternative if I didn’t have any MP3s on hand and I occasionally discovered a new artist or band that I liked. The reason behind all this seems to be a change in law regarding artist royalties. The change meant that sites such as Pandora would have to pay a huge increase in royalties and licensing fees for broadcasting songs abroad, and has affected most Pandora listeners since the beginning of the year. Pandora founder Tim Westergren explained the problem facing his site (and internet radio in general) in an interview with 10ZenMonkeys.com:
We pay a licensing fee for every song that we stream, which was determined by the Copyright Royalty Board. And the royalty board just voted to almost triple those fees within the next couple of years. So overnight, they’ve made webcast radio pretty much impossible. It’s impossible, at these new rates, to really operate a radio station online.
Fortunately, there are a few downloadable alternatives out there that are still operating within the confines of this ruling. One of the most popular and successful has been Last.fm. The program works by “scrobbling” the tracks you play on your PC and sending the information to the Lastfm database. From there, other users can see what kind of music you are into and the program can suggest other users and bands you may be interested in. A similar, but far less widely used alternatives to Last.fm is Social.fm.
If this doesn’t grab your fancy and you just can’t live without Pandora, then Digital Alchemy have some suggestions about how you can try and listen to Pandora outside of the USA. One of these is surfing into the site via a proxy although as they point out, Pandora is Flash based and proxies are notoriously bad at handling such sites. Other online alternatives are Musicovery and Deezer (formerly known as Blogmusik).
Let us know if you’ve found any other great alternatives to Pandora or a way to circumnavigate the block outside of the USA.