I've been using elliptical machines in the health club for at least 15 years now - vital, as you move on in life, not just to maintain conditioning but also, I think, to slow down aging - and I can only tolerate it if listening to music. At first I'd take CDs and hope the battery didn't run out mid-session. Then I switched to the iPhone and playlists. Being a member of the Album Generation, I tended to want to have whole albums (actual or constructed by me). But you can only fit so many on your phone, and even if you keep dozens of favorites available, often on a given day you don't want to hear any of them. Plus it's a nuisance to have to keep on adding and deleting playlists. So recently I switched to Pandora.
Generally it does the job, especially as one can skip ahead when needed. The ads are annoying (I haven't upgraded to ad-free), but this just means taking off my headphones, and holding them in my hands for 30 second stretches, twice in the course of a 35 minute workout session.
Somehow I wish the algorithm could be more insightful, regarding not just my overall tastes, but even my mood on a given day. But then again, a world in which it could read my mood might on the whole be a bit dystopian.
The variety of selections that you get in rapid succession can be fun. Today I decided to keep track of the playlist it gave me, which went like this:
XTC, Hendrix, Belle and Sebastian, Fiona Apple, Arthur Alexander, Led Zeppelin (not one of my picked artists, and I pushed "next" after about 2 minutes), Pavement, Dylan, Queen (also not one of mine, and this lasted less than a minute), Sex Pistols, Kinks, Shins, Velvet Underground, Rancid (also not one of mine), Buddy Holly.
UPDATE: At the suggestion of a reader of this blog, I've now added Spotify to my repertoire, and have tailored it to have generally different coverage for me than does Pandora.