Spotify vs. Pandora: Which One Do Listeners Prefer? - AllSoundLab pandora VS

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which One Do Listeners Prefer?

(Last Updated On: October 20, 2016)

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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.

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  • October 20, 2016

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 in to his beats…

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Pandora vs Sirius XM: Which is Best?

I recently had an epiphany on two recent two hour road trips that made me start to rethink my assumption that Satellite radio is more reliable than 3G / 4G radio.  I drove from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara on the 101 Freeway along the coast that notoriously has poor cell reception.  I also drove from Los Angeles to Palm Springs during rush hour and a heavy usage period.

I tested both Pandora streaming on my HSPA+ G2 Android phone and Sirius Satellite radio that comes with a factory installed radio inside my Volvo XC90.  Which did you think dropped fewer signals and had the best streaming audio experience?  Your intuition would make you think the Satellite performed better but you would be wrong.  T-Mobile's 3G HSPA+ network worked excellent the entire way along the coast and on the 10 Freeway without stuttering a song once.

So, why is Sirius XM starting to lose signal in areas that you would least expect.  Sirius also loses a signal in an area you would expect under bridges and in areas blocked by buildings or a parking structure.  Its can be annoying at times when listening to Howard Stern who has funny punch line every few minutes. Is it their terrestrial repeater network that is being congested?  Do their satellites need an upgrade or is it interference?

My speculation is that Pandora does a better job of downloading more content and caching songs ahead of time.  Pandora caches songs so when you enter areas of poor cellular strength you have radio content to stream.  Sirius on the other hand only caches a few seconds of the song or show and therefor if you lose signal you are likely going to lose some of the content.

I also tried something new using my cars new Bluetooth streaming feature that sends audio from my phone into my car stereo speakers.  I used the Pandora app on my G2 T-Mobile phone and it work great.  Keep in mind I have an unlimited data plan with T-Mobile so I am not worried about going over my data plan.  Pandora streaming doesn't use as much data as you'd think so it begs the question, how much data does Pandora use on cell phone?

In conclusion, I think that 3G / 4G / LTE streaming in the car radio has a lot of promise in the future as more consumers realize its pretty easy to do.  However, carriers are going to have to be more lenient and transparent about data caps and usage for customer in order to not scare people off.  Fore those who have unlimited data plans enjoy your Sirius or Spotify mobile apps as much as you want.  The experience is going to have to be cheap for the masses to use it.  Therefore, other services will have to be embedded into the car radio like Direct TV, Navigation or OnStar emergency services in order for consumers to pay a premium.  
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Beers, Blue Jeans and Broadcast Radio vs. Pandora

Pandora has long said its Internet radio service is good for artists. Listeners can decide what they do and do not hear by “thumbing” songs. A listener won’t hear a song given a “thumb down.” A “thumb up” for positive feedback tells Pandora to play that song and more like it. Personalized Internet radio is democratic like that.

Don’t get lost in the numbers. Just know that traditional country radio can be very powerful to a handful of stars while Pandora provides more opportunity for a larger number of country artists to get heard. In fact, the Pandora’s Today’s Country station [consistently one of the top stations at Pandora, by the way] can deliver to a developing or mid-tier artist up to 14x times the audience share they would have on the country airplay chart.

There are numbers that back up this notion that Pandora is an audience engine for developing artists. Pandora is fair and beneficial simply because less popular artists have as much opportunity on Pandora as superstars. Broadcast country radio is far more slanted toward a handful of artists.

My comparison began at the audience numbers on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. The chart, published in Billboard’s weekly Country Update, ranks the week’s top 60 songs and gives both the number of spins and the total audience at the country stations tracked by Nielsen Music. The top song on the May 16 Country Airplay chart was Dierks Bentley’s “Somewhere on a Beach” with an audience of 49.2 million, a typical number for a top song on that chart. The #60 position had just 1.5 percent the audience as “Somewhere on a Beach.” In contrast, on Pandora’s analogous Today’s Country station, the #60 song had 21 percent the audience as the #1 song, David Nail’s “Night’s on Fire” — over 14x better than same spot on the Country Airplay chart. [The re-current songs that probably dropped off the Country Airplay were removed from the Today’s Country numbers. This was done to create a good apples-to-apples comparison. The Country Airplay chart includes new and current songs, not re-current songs.]

Next, I compared the audience share of 12 songs that had the same or nearly the same rankings. A song was selected if its Today’s Country rank was within two or three spots from the Country Airplay rank. For example, Old Dominion’s “Snapback” is #4 Today’s Country Rank and #3 rank on Country Airplay. In these 12 songs I examined, the difference in shares were substantial and could exceed as many as 50 percentage points. Canaan Smith’s “Hole in a Bottle” is a good example of Pandora’s benefit to developing artists. “Hole in a Bottle,” ranked #24 on Today’s Country and#23 on Country Airplay, had a 79-percent share at the Pandora station compared to a 26-percent share on country radio — a 53-percentage point difference. Jordan Rager’s “Southern Boy,” hovering around #50, has a similar story. It has a 35-percent share at Today’s Country and a 3-percent share at country radio. Put another way, “Hole in a Bottle” is getting buried under the hits at country radio but is grabbing a far better share of listening at Pandora.

The bottom line: if you’re not one of a handful of top artists, or if you’re trying to push a song up the charts, you’ll have a tough uphill climb at broadcast country radio. An artist whose song is #60 on the Airplay Chart is typically an artist that’s trying desperately to move up. It’s a winner-take-all market in which a very small number of songs grab most of the spins. In contrast, Pandora creates a more meaningful audience for a significantly larger number of songs.

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