It's the little Pandora app that makes a very big difference in how you use the music streaming service.
I've been a big Pandora fan for about a year now. Lately, my love has been getting steamrolled by various Spotify evangelists, but for me, I don't feel like I've really gotten everything I can out of the Pandora experience. As you probably know, Pandora is internet "radio" — its killer technology is a predictive algorithm that can take a song, artist, even an album title and turn it into a stream of music, by using the song's DNA. This is the "Music Genone Project"). You provide an input based on what you like — say, Ozzy Osbourne or Gustav Mahler — and...Pandora's box of music is opened!
Pandora has effectively replaced iTunes as my go-to music resource. iTunes is fine, but I've always liked radio better than the self-programming that more self-contained music formats entail — everything from mix-tapes in the 1980s and '90s to iTunes playlists now. Like the radio, Pandora does the work for me. (See, this is how I wound up working at a radio station!)
However, one thing that's persistently bugged me about Pandora, which I play off both my BlackBerry Storm via an app and off my MacBooks on the Web, is that I haven't been able to stream it to AirPlay. Here I have this amazing new technology that anticipates my musical needs, and yet I still have to plug in the speakers to make it work. Which is annoying because it ties down the smartphone or the laptop.
Enter PandoraJam, a free app from Bitcartel that's still in beta release (version 2.0 now) and that works with Mac OS X (not yet Lion, as I discovered whe I tried to make it fly on my MacBook Air). PandoraJam provides various features that I'm currently not using (Lifehacker summarizes here). But the upshot is that it circumvents the Pandora website and runs Pandora in a nice, lightweight app environment.
Best of all, it effortlessly streams Pandora to the AirPort, piping my music streams over my el-cheapo and rather aged but still basically fine JBL Creature speakers. In demo mode, the stream cuts out every few songs. But for $15, you can avoid that irritation.
Evidently, you can also do this with an app called RaopX, but the install looks a little to complicated for my tastes.
PandoraJam! If you're a Mac/AirPort user, and a Pandora regular, it's what you need to make your life feel complete!