We first heard about Pandora about five years ago when there was a great deal of excitement surrounding the idea of a free streaming service that could tailor your music tastes to your selections.
For instance, choose Bruce Springsteen and Pandora would recommend Jackson Browne or John Mellencamp. Listen to Cat Stevens and James Taylor would magically pop up in a random song selection.
Best of all, Pandora could access a musical library in the millions. And for a short while, it was pure musical bliss. And then, due to no shortage of copyright restrictions - Pandora, like many others dabbling in this grey area, were suddenly not accessible to Australian IP addresses anymore. And the free music party was over.
Europe plants the streaming seed
On the other side of the world in Europe, another much larger service has since taken root. Spotify allows users to listen to any song and at any time for free. The best part is that Spotify is remarkably simple to use and has access to over 3.8 million tracks.
Equally as useful, Spotify allows users to access their favourite music playlists from any computer using their Spotify account. There are two Spotify accounts to choose from; a free lower quality service (160Kbs) and a premium subscription for 10 Euros a month will give you access to the higher quality stream (320Kps).
Unfortunately, for our Australian readers, this still won't help much. Even if the service cost just 1 euro a year (however unlikely), it wouldn't make much difference to Australian internet users.
In Australia, our options for all-you-can eat streaming music are limited to a bunch of smaller international sites who haven't yet cut Australia off. Last FM, while once very popular for its Pandora type mould, has waned in popularity since they started to charge fees.
Now the free portion of the site links to YouTube videos, which seems counter intuitive, when you consider just how easy YouTube is to access, copyright or not. MySpace is still open to business in Australia, where you access loads of small and upcoming bands, but you could hardly call it a music streaming service.
So that leaves us with YouTube, where not surprisingly thanks to Google's mammoth servers - can help you now find just about any song you've ever wanted and even the ultra-rare stuff. In addition to YouTube's encyclopaedic number of music titles, there is no shortage of sites that will help you save the YouTube video and create an MP3 for you - online, with no software to download.
Getting around the issue
Proxies can help to alleviate part of the pain: there's no shortage of software titles and online sites designed to help get you around these our notable copyright-ip restrictions. For now, it's pay or no play and that's a little unfortunate.