I’m sort of a late adopter, but I love Pandora now. I was suffering from severe Playlist Fatigue Syndrome with my iTunes library, and Pandora has fixed that issue for me rather handily.
We paid for the annual subscription to get commercial-free streaming. It’s nice to have an infinite playlist matching a particular mood or kind of song, but it’s also damn nice to discover stuff you hadn’t heard of before. I like writing to movie soundtracks and instrumentals because there are no lyrics to distract me from what’s on the page, and some of the very best stuff I’ve found has been by the Nick Cave & Warren Ellis collaboration. The soundtrack to The Road, for example, is very powerful and haunting.
But the best of the Cave/Ellis albums so far is the soundtrack to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It’s a great, great album of elegiac mood music, and the last track (“Song for Bob”) is worth the purchase price of the album all by itself.
I’ve discovered so many of my favorite writers or musicians this way–there’s a sample or a free copy available online, you sample, you like, you buy. Reading the free copy of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, for example, resulted in me buying all the rest of Scalzi’s books with cash money, so I’d say that the “First One’s Free!” strategy really does pay off.