Spotify vs. Pandora

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Zack Kulm

By Zack Kulm Contributing Writer

Zack Kulm is a writer and contributor to soda.com. He covers a variety of topics from entertainment and gaming technologies to pop culture commentary. Kulm received a degree in English from Penn State University and Film Studies from Pittsburgh Filmmakers Institute. He also produces award-winning documentaries.

Spotify vs. Pandora

Launched in 2008, Spotify has grown into one of the most popular music streaming companies in the entire world. Its sleek interface and remarkable music discovery features have given it the success it enjoys today. Pandora started with the idea of creating a personalized radio station for each of its subscribers and powered its platform with what’s known as the Music Genome Project. Pandora’s subscribers enjoy creating multiple radio stations and finding new music through its Music Genome Project. Pandora is only available in the U.S. and in 2019 Sirius Radio acquired the service.

Spotify Premium vs. Pandora Premium Overview

Spotify and Pandora offer free service tiers ideal for the casual listener seeking a radio-like experience. The difference between these two choices lies mostly in features like discovery and social sharing.
Spotify Premium
Pandora Premium
Monthly price
$9.99/mo.
$9.99/mo.
Student plan
$4.99/mo.
$4.99/mo.
Family plan
$14.99/mo.
$14.99/mo.
Military discount
No
$7.99/mo.
Number of songs
60 million
30 million
Free trial length
3 months
60 days

Interface and usability

Pandora has a user-friendly interface designed for simple access that’s easily traversable. Its mobile app is similar to the desktop design’s sleek appearance. Simply access your library, profile, and music discovery features sprawled across the bottom of your screen. Pandora takes into account your song and playlist choices by identifying your patterns of use and presenting future tracks based on your clicks. It’s also compatible with numerous devices, including your smartphone, TV, wearables, and more. And when it comes to offline mode, simply download your favorite stations to listen whenever you’re away from WiFi or in an out-of-service area.

In Spotify’s mobile app, the settings tab is located at the top right corner of your screen. From there you’re able to view your profile, alter your music quality, crossfade between songs, among many more features. Its menu is positioned across the bottom of the screen where you can access your library, search songs, or navigate to your home screen. It pairs with several devices including your smartphone, PlayStation 4, smart speakers, and so much more. You can also download up to 10,000 songs for offline mode.

Music discovery

Spotify’s world-renown discovery playlists, including “Discover Weekly” and “Daily Mix,” help listeners find new songs and artists. Spotify’s algorithm introduces tracks based on your previous likes, skips, and dislikes and exposes you to songs and artists you’ve never experienced before. While Spotify’s playlists are essential for many subscribers, it’s Pandora’s Music Genome Project that shines in this category. Using more than 450 attributes to describe songs, along with a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them, the Music Genome Project stimulates Pandora’s discovery with surgical precision. Choose a few songs, and Pandora will effortlessly fill the rest of your station with music you’re sure to like.

Social sharing

Due to the accessibility of Spotify’s free version, you can freely recommend artists, or share your favorite songs and playlists with your friends. With Pandora, you can share your favorite stations on Facebook and Twitter, but not to the same effect. Since its stations are locked behind its subscription service, you must be a member to enjoy — not the most conducive method for social sharing. With Spotify, you can share individual songs across Facebook, Reddit, Skype, Twitter, and other social platforms. And sharing is simple, just click on the three dots located to the right and choose your sharing options.

The best value

Spotify’s free tier is an incredible value that provides access to its vast music library, discovery features, and social sharing tools. When using Spotify’s desktop application as a free user, you also enjoy access to any of your favorite songs without shuffling like the mobile app. By comparison, Pandora offers two ad-free, subscription tiers — Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium — with Plus costing just $5 per month. So, if you don’t want to shell out $9.99 per month, you can choose either Pandora’s or Spotify’s cheaper alternative and still avoid ads altogether.

The Bottom Line

Pandora and its Music Genome Project provide an impressive approach to music discovery. With its complex algorithm, Pandora may enhance your scope of songs and artists based on your current selection of tracks making its service a good option for music discovery. If you want the best free music option, listen to music on a wide range of devices, or appreciate connectivity with friends, you can’t go wrong with Spotify.