Spotify vs. Pandora: Which One Do Listeners Prefer?

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Pandora first arrived on the online music scene about fifteen years ago and had a big part in stimulating the first innovations of what is now a huge industry. Pandora was one of the first to offer a high-quality and viable music streaming service but nowadays there are a number of services that are all competing for a piece of the consumer music streaming pie. One of the services that have been extremely successful in capturing the attention and business of internet radio consumers is Spotify and they are now a major force for Pandora to contend with. In fact, some say Spotify offers the best value and range of features available compared to any other internet radio service provider.

Pandora and Spotify are without question two of the leading providers in the industry and certainly among the best, if not the best. Spotify has over sixty million users and Pandora has a staggering two hundred fifty million users, obviously neither service is going away anytime soon. So let’s take a look at both services and see which one might offer you the best overall value if you are looking to pump up the volume on your music streaming experience by choosing a quality service provider.

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Selection of Music

Both services are gigantic in size based on almost any criteria you want to use as a measuring stick, so you would assume both have a comparable selection of music. However, this actually is not the case and both services have quite different amounts of music and audio available for listeners. It can be difficult to measure the exact amount of music each service actually offers. Depending on which estimates you want to use Spotify offers between twenty and thirty million songs while Pandora only offers just over one million, a big differential.

This gives Spotify a huge advantage over Pandora and it is “the standard” that all music streaming services are measured against when it comes to volume of available music and value. Even though Spotify’s library is huge they do not offer absolutely every song by every artist, as some artists have chosen to withhold their music and not give permission for Spotify to offer it. However, they no doubt have a wide range of music available from the most popular to some of the most obscure as well. This is an added benefit for users as it gives them the opportunity to discover new artists and songs they have never heard before simply by surfing through the Spotify site.

Social Features

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Music has always brought people together and been something that has a social aspect to it. With the continued growth of online social platforms, it has made Spotify, Pandora and other internet music service providers a perfect match for bringing music and online sharing capabilities together. Both services allow users to enjoy certain aspects of social media and sharing functionality within their services, although they differ from one another.

 

Pandora’s social aspects are relatively straight forward allowing users to share music stations on Twitter as well as Facebook. However, it does not allow users to recommend particular songs and only directs others to a general information page without the ability to play songs.

Spotify’s social functionality is much more impressive as it offers a whole range of different options such as sharing songs, making connections with friends and the ability to recommend your favorite stations too. In fact, Spotify even allows users to share entire playlists and the option of recommending a particular artist or band. In addition to simply sharing songs and artists you enjoy, Spotify also allows users to interact, collaborate and make personal playlists accessible publicly. There is no question the social functionality of Spotify goes well beyond what Pandora is capable of and Spotify clearly has a big advantage over Pandora in this category.

Finding New Music

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Finding new music and discovering new artists is something that most users enjoy and a big reason they sign up for music streaming services to begin with. While both services provide a platform where finding new music is certainly possible, Pandora clearly has this element of being an online streaming music provider figured out. Pandora uses an algorithm to predict and figure out exactly what kind of music a listener wants to hear. Over many years, the algorithm has been perfected and it is stunningly accurate in what options it offers listeners in a number of ways. This gives users a constant opportunity to find new music and within the type or style of music that they prefer.

Spotify is very simplistic in this category and while you have the option of searching for music in a variety of ways, the application rarely wanders off its directed course by offering something you are not specifically searching for. Pandora wins this category in almost every way with a much more intuitive and creative platform that many users say is a big reason they stick with the service.

Pricing

Both Pandora and Spotify offer free and subscription based services depending on the exact features a user is looking for. Like many online services, both services use advertisements as a way to pay for their free accounts. Therefore, if you sign up for a free account, you will find ads being served up on both. This can certainly be a bit more or less annoying depending on the level of tolerance a user has for ads but is certainly an acceptable trade-off for a free account.

The free accounts for both services are very similar offering a lower quality of stream compared to their paid accounts, advertisements between songs and limited functionality for offline or downloading music.

Pandora’s premium services cost $4.99 per month while Spotify’s premium membership is $9.99 per month. Both services offer streaming service completely advertisement free with their paid memberships, although they do differ in other areas. While Spotify is double the cost of Pandora’s premium service it offers significant upgrades not available with Pandora such as the ability to download a desktop app for offline music listening and a significant increase in stream quality.

Total cost is always a consideration but based on the overall quality of upgrades with the premium service and Spotify’s huge library of music, it easily offers a better value than Pandora.

Platform

While features and extras are always nice, sometimes a solid platform that offers consistent performance without a lot of interruptions and errors makes all the difference. Spotify and Pandora have both done an excellent job at perfecting their platforms over the years and this category is a virtual tie. Both platforms offer a solid high-quality experience that users will enjoy.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that Pandora and Spotify are the two “big boys on the block” when it comes to online streaming music services. However, they offer very different features and functionality. In our opinion, Spotify is the clear winner in both the free and premium account categories. While Pandora is still a great service that many users enjoy, it doesn’t have near the amount of content available for users and their platform is not quite as intuitive as Spotify’s. You won’t be disappointed by signing up for either service but as far as getting the best overall value, be it with a free account or paid account, Spotify excels well beyond the offerings of Pandora.

Juan Alexander

Juan is a self-professed sound-nerd and the webmaster / lead author & tester for AllSoundLab. You might literally walk into him on the street because he's tuned out to the world and tuned into his beats...

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