The future of music

Spotify vs Pandora: Which Platform Wins?

June 29, 2023
spotify vs pandora

Spotify and Pandora both have a reputation for being among the top music streaming services out there.

And while that’s certainly true, they do have their differences, and one of them is slightly better than the other.

So, today’s post is dedicated to a little Spotify vs Pandora battle.

We’ll take a look at the main features, highlights, and drawbacks of each platform and help you pick the one that suits you better. 

Spotify and Pandora – How Do They Work?

In this day and age, music streaming services are the number one source of new music, curated playlists, and music promotion.

Whether you’re a music fan or an emerging artist, finding the right music streaming app or website is a must.

And when it comes to the best music streaming services, Spotify and Pandora are always high on the list.

But which one is a better service?

Or better yet – which one is a better platform for you?

Spotify 

Founded in 2006, Spotify evolved to be one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world.

According to Statista, in the first quarter of 2023, Spotify reported 515 million active users worldwide.

It’s one of the most popular music platforms for sure, and that comes as no surprise – the platform comes with numerous benefits. 

You can launch the Spotify app on Android, iPhone, desktop, and smart TV apps, and it’s excellent for car rides. 

The app offers collaborative playlists, group session options, podcasts, and an extensive music library.

And it’s well-designed, eye-catching, and easy to navigate.

But what users usually like the most about Spotify is the easy way to create playlists and listen to music that fits their tastes.

You can simply search for artists you like and follow them, so you can stay up to date with new releases. 

If someone you follow releases a new song, the track will show up on the Release Radar playlist (along with other tracks that you might like.)

Besides new release lists, you’ll get Daily Mix playlists – Daily Mix provides 6 personalized playlists of different artists and genres based on your music preference.

To provide you with daily playlists and song recommendations, Spotify analyzes your streaming history.

So, the more you stream the mix, the more songs will appear in the playlist.

2 electronic gadget showing spotify application.

Besides personalized playlists and recommendations, Spotify also has cool social features.

The app allows you to connect with your friends and see what they’re listening to in real-time. 

On top of that, the app allows you to share individual songs, full albums, and playlists via special links that target the Spotify app.

All in all, Spotify is regarded as one of the best music streaming services for a good reason – but can it win in a Spotify vs Pandora comparison?

Pandora 

Pandora is definitely a strong opponent – it’s the largest audio entertainment streaming service in the U.S. and one of the oldest music platforms.

In fact, Pandora was a pioneer in free streaming channels.

And it has grown a lot since its launch in 2005.

There are nearly 80 million active Pandora users in the United States, as well as Australia and New Zealand, and the service had around 6 million paid subscribers in 2022.

Pandora is a very useful and convenient music streaming app, and it comes with a variety of features. 

But unlike Spotify, Pandora doesn’t let you choose the songs to listen to.

Essentially, Pandora is a radio streaming service based on uniquely-personalized music and podcast listening experience.

Radio stations on Pandora look like playlists though, and many of them are based on genre.

This way, Pandora offers a great way to discover new music, and it’s ideal for people who want to listen to music that fits their taste without the need to search for specific songs.

mobile showing pandora application

Pandora is available through its mobile app and on the web, and it’s rather easy to use.

However, the service is not available in all countries (it’s currently available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand only), which is a deal-breaker for many people.

Nevertheless, Pandora is still regarded as one of the best platforms for streaming music, and thanks to its algorithms of the Music Genome Project (Pandora’s music database), it offers its users a unique experience of listening to personalized radio stations. 

Spotify vs Pandora – Which One Is Better? 

Now that you know what each platform is all about, let’s compare their characteristics and features so you can decide which platform is a better option for you.

User interface

Although it’s not visually very attractive, Pandora’s interface works quite well – everything is straightforward and easy to navigate.

So, the app performs well, but it’s not as neat, fast, and eye-catching as some of its competitors.

Spotify, on the other hand, has a more cohesive interface.

There are no different color schemes on Spotify sections, and its layout is immediately recognizable.

Everything is also very easy to navigate, both on the phone and desktop versions.

Streaming quality 

In terms of streaming quality, Spotify Premium and Pandora Premium don’t offer top-notch sound.

But unless you plan to listen to music over huge high-end speakers, that doesn’t really matter.

Spotify, however, offers slightly better streaming options.

Spotify Premium offers up to 320kbps, while the maximum bitrate for Pandora Premium is 192kbps.

Also, Spotify announced Spotify HiFi in 2021 – a way of delivering music in CD-quality, lossless audio format – but they delayed the launch for unknown reasons.

Playlists

As we mentioned before, radio stations on Pandora look like playlists.

You can create your own playlists based on your musical preferences, but you can’t manually pick and add songs or albums. 

However, you can use friends’ shared playlists or browse many public Pandora stations that are based on genre. 

Spotify works in a different way – the app allows you to create playlists, save songs that you like, and follow artists.

And there are countless curated playlists you can explore, from independent playlists to playlists made by Spotify’s editorial team.

And you can search playlists by genre, mood, similar artists, and so on. 

Spotify playlist

Thanks to its smart algorithm, Spotify also provides you with personalized mix playlists based on your streaming history.

These daily playlists tend to feature artists and tracks you’re familiar with, but they can also feature something new that you might like.

And they change every 7 days, so there’s always fresh music to listen to. 

Moreover, Spotify has Release Radar and What’s New playlists – listeners get new music from artists they follow, artists they listen to, and other artists they might like. 

If you’re an artist, submitting a pitch to Spotify playlist editors at least 7 days before release day will get your song on your followers’ Release Radar playlists.

Phone apps 

Pandora has mobile phone apps for Android and iOS and some limited support among Windows Mobile devices and Blackberry devices.

Spotify is available on Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone.

Music discovery features 

On Pandora, you can discover new music by tuning in to one of Pandora’s music genre stations or other Pandora users’ stations.

Pandora’s algorithm creates stations for every artist, genre, and song, and you can then customize it by renaming it and adding other artists and songs that you want the station to be based on.

You can’t manually add a specific song though, which ultimately makes Pandora a great place to discover new music.

Each Pandora station can also be adjusted to a specific mode – for instance, the My Station mode is a basic mode based on your customization choices. 

The Discovery mode generates music based on your customization as well as fitting artists, and the Deep Cuts mode prioritizes the less popular songs from the artists you’ve added to the Station. 

There’s also the Crowd Faves mode that also takes into account the songs with the most thumbs given by other users.

Pandora music discovery features

One thing is for sure – Pandora offers a great way of discovering tunes that you might like.

But Spotify has similar features as well.

On Spotify, you can easily search for a specific song and artist (on a desktop version you can do it for free), you can skip songs, and you’ll get a ton of recommendations based on your musical preferences.

You can discover completely different artists as well – there are countless playlists based on genre, mood, year of release, and so on. 

So, besides algorithmically designed playlists and great suggestions, Spotify provides the possibility to listen to something completely new.

On the other hand, the platform knows what kind of music you want to discover – and the more songs you listen to, the more personalized and accurate your playlists are going to be. 

Subscriptions 

All of the features and options we mentioned so far depend on the type of membership you opt for.

However, both platforms offer amazing free versions.

Pandora’s restrictions on its free members include audio advertisements, limited skips a day, reduced audio quality, and timeouts.

And Spotify’s free version differs from its paid memberships because of similar things: ads, a limited number of skips per hour, and audio quality.

With Spotify Premium, you can:

  • Download music for offline listening
  • Use of Spotify Connect, which allows you to hook up other hardware to Spotify’s mobile app
  • Listen to music ad-free 
  • Get higher audio quality of 320 kbps 

And Pandora One’s benefits include:

  • Higher audio quality of 192 kbps
  • Fewer timeouts
  • Downloadable desktop application
  • Ad-free listening 

In terms of price, both platforms offer rather affordable membership plans.

Pandora Plus is $4.99 a month and Pandora Premium is $9.99 a month.

The subscription to the Spotify Individual Premium plan costs $9.99 per month, and the cost of the Premium Duo Spotify is $12.99 per month. 

So, the subscription price is virtually the same, but the Spotify membership plan includes more features.

Also, Pandora only allows one user for the cost, and Spotify offers up to six people the use of its services for the same price. 

Music library

Pandora has an extensive music library of roughly 1 to 2 million songs. 

But compared to Spotify, that’s really not a lot – Spotify reportedly has around 100 million songs in its music catalog. 

Since Spotify accepts music from anyone who submits to it, it features a ton of music from indie artists. 

Also, Pandora pays artists less on average than Spotify does, so many unsigned artists decide to distribute their music to Spotify. 

Music Library

Spotify’s music library is truly extensive, but the exact size of the catalog varies by region.

Nevertheless, both platforms offer enough songs to satisfy even the most picky music enthusiasts. 

Social features 

When it comes to social features, Spotify offers more sharing features than Pandora does.

Spotify allows you to share music on social media platforms, and you can easily share individual songs, full albums, and playlists.

Plus, Spotify allows you to connect with your friends, create collaborative playlists, check out their playlists, and even see what they’re listening to at the moment.

Spotify certainly makes you feel connected, and it offers a great way to show off your music taste and preferences. 

But Pandora offers several ways of sharing music as well – you can share links to Pandora stations via Facebook, Twitter, and email.

The platform also allows you to follow your friends and look at their Stations and liked songs.

So, both platforms have cool social features, but Spotify seems to have more widespread sharing capabilities and the possibility to view and show active listening history. 

Additional features 

As you can see, both music streaming services offer great features and opportunities.

And in most cases, you’ll probably rely on their main features.

However, each platform offers a bunch of extra features.

For instance, Pandora includes:

  • Voice assistant integration 
  • Carplay and Android Auto compatibility
  • Reliable parental controls
  • A variety of membership plans (Pandora Premium Family, Student Premium, Military Premium…)
  • Podcasts 

Spotify’s additional features include:

  • Carplay and Android Auto compatibility
  • Spotify Wrapped – data collected from your Spotify account throughout the year (most-listened artists, genres, songs, and so on)
  • Spotify for Artists 
  • Sleep Timer
  • Podcasts 

Spotify is packed with features, and what’s amazing is that most features are available in a free version. 

persong using mobilephone and checking playinglist of music app.

Both Spotify and Pandora have their own pros and cons, and which platform you’re going to opt for depends on your preferences, needs, and priorities. 

All things considered, you can’t go wrong with either streaming service.

Therefore, think about what really matters to you and pick a streaming app that suits you best. 

Which Is Better for the Artists – Spotify or Pandora? 

Whether you should opt for Pandora or Spotify is entirely up to you.

But if you’re an artist and you’re looking for a streaming service to upload your music, you might be interested to hear how each platform treats its artists.

Pandora pays artists $1.33 for 1,000 streams – so, the average payout is $0.0013 per stream, which is really not a lot.

Also, Pandora doesn’t accept every track.

If you want to submit your track to Pandora, you need to do it via a third-party distributor such as CD Baby, Distrokid, or Tunecore.

You can only send one track at a time through their submission tool, and there’s no expected timeline for submissions.

Spotify, on the other hand, allows everyone to submit their music, and you can choose to distribute it yourself or via a third-party distributor.

Also, Spotify offers a great platform for emerging musicians – Spotify for Artists.

Spotify for Artists allows you to customize your artist profile, promote your music, pitch your songs to playlist editors, and connect with your fans.

Playlist listeners ads.

With Spotify for Artists, you’ll also be able to see detailed analytics and streaming data about your music and your listeners. 

Once you distribute your tracks on Spotify, you can claim your Spotify for Artists profile by searching for your artist name, selecting it, and following the instructions for verification. 

You can then customize your artist page and add all the necessary information and links such as Artist bio, images, upcoming gigs, and social media links.

Finally, Spotify pays artists between $0.003 – $0.005 per stream on average, which means that compared to Pandora, you can earn more money at a faster rate.

Spotify vs Pandora – Final Thoughts 

Spotify and Pandora are both excellent music streaming platforms made for music lovers – they are reliable, affordable, and convenient. 

Pandora offers a radio-style experience and an easy way to discover new music that matches your taste, while Spotify provides custom daily and weekly playlists and allows you to pick the songs you want to play.

Spotify is also a bit more flexible, and unlike Pandora, it’s available in dozens of countries and territories.

So, if we had to declare a winner in Pandora vs Spotify comparison, we would go for Spotify this time. 

You may also like: Tidal vs Spotify

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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