Does That Make Steve Jobs Prometheus?

I’ll admit, I’ve often decried the commoditizing of music, especially when it’s used as a mere distraction on a cell phone, no more important to a person’s soul than Bejeweled.

But combine a cool music-comparing algorithm with mobile’s “It” device and a free price tag, and you’ve got my attention.

Today, Pandora Media announced that its online music service is going to be offered for free in mobile form for the first time, as opposed to being a paid premium like it’s been for Sprint and AT&T customers–but only on the iPhone. Pandora matches a person’s preferred songs and music styles, offering the listener streams of new tunes that they are purportedly sure to like. Online, it’s a free, ad-supported service.

Pandora will be available on the iPhone 3G, which goes on sale today, as well as other iPhone models and the iPod touch. Users can download the special app from the iPhone App Store, then tap into their existing personal online music stations.

A Pandora-Apple marriage makes for a compelling slice of mobile commerce. Consider the iPhone is in a way just a glorified music player, fulfilling longtime conjecture about Internet-enabled iPods that don’t require a hookup to one’s computer to download songs. So there’s sure to be overlap amongst Pandora and Apple customers. Thus, there’s great opportunity for cross-promotion between users of Pandora and, say, iTunes.

(My theory was further bolstered when I asked if Pandora has plans to be on BlackBerrys and Android phones. Company CTO Tom Conrad said, “We want to be everywhere on every handset, but the iPhone is the only specific announcement we’re ready to make today.”)

Meanwhile, some might say this is another way in which the iPhone will move mobile marketing forward. The music service is busy telling marketers how this is a great advertising opp, since iPhone users are an ideal demographic with the tendency and ability to spend money on things both music- and mobile-related. Pandora has plans underway to offer audio and visual creative formats to advertisers, with a special iPhone mobile ad platform to be unrolled before the end of the year.

Pandora definitely needs to monetize–or at least support–its mobile offering. But unlike the “you want fries with that” mantra of fast-food employees trying to upsell customers, this lucrative partnership really does give consumers what they want.