Spotify vs. Pandora: Which Is the Best Music Streaming Service?

Spotify vs Pandora2

Digital streaming, in modern times, is taking over the music industry as music streaming — a form of streaming media — is now bigger than ever.

Every year, billions of dollars go into the music streaming industry as the majority of music enthusiasts have developed a flair for subscription-based streaming services. Big names in this arena include Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music.

These services are built to enable you to unwind listening to your favorite jams and discover loads of newly released music without breaking a sweat.

Spotify and Pandora are 2 of the most popular music streaming platforms. But which one can be rated as the best music streaming service overall? Here at, after looking at various factors, we feel that Spotify is a better choice for the majority of users.

Let’s delve into the full analysis.

Spotify vs. Pandora: Background

Spotify vs. Pandora:


Spotify Technology S.A., a Swedish media-services provider, was founded by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon in 2006. It launched on October 7, 2008, and provides access to more than 50 million tracks to its vast collection of subscribers.

As of July 2019, the Spotify platform had 232 million monthly active users, which included 108 million paying subscribers. It allows you to browse by parameters like artist, genre, or album. You can also create, edit as well as share playlists.

The service is available in the majority of Europe & the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and areas in Asia and Africa, in addition to the majority of modern devices. Such devices include macOS, Windows, and Linux computers, and Android and iOS smartphones & tabs.


In 2000, Will Glaser, Jon Kraft & Tim Westergren established Pandora as Savage Beast Technologies. The idea behind creating the company then was to develop a radio station for each user, providing music that the user likes and exempting music that they have no interest in.

Also called Pandora Media or Pandora Radio, the company now operates as US-based music streaming and automated music recommendation internet radio service, which relies on the Music Genome Project.

You can gain access to this service either through your web browser or via its mobile application.

It’s a freemium service with basic features that are free but contain ads or have limitations. To get additional features, like enhanced streaming quality, music downloads and offline channels, you will have to go for paid subscriptions.

In 2014, Pandora had around 76 million monthly users. In 2019, this figure has dropped to about 66 million.

If you are a lover of music, the 2 services are certainly worth their salt. However, if you are looking to upgrade to paid tiers such as Spotify Unlimited or Pandora Premium, you’ll be interested in getting more info on what your hard-earned cash will be spent on.

Let’s see how Spotify fares in comparison with Pandora, focusing on the factors below, to help you decide the better option.

Spotify vs. Pandora: Music Catalog

The Spotify service enjoyed a huge lead in this category for years, featuring tens of millions of songs in its vast library. On the other hand, for most of its existence, the catalogue of Pandora contained nearly 1 – 2 million songs, which was comparatively lower, so it could barely display intense rivalry with Spotify or even Apple Music.

But in the wake of Rdio’s acquisition, Pandora penned deals with many big record labels and introduced Pandora Premium eventually as its on-demand service.

In spite of that development, Spotify still boasts more music, mainly due to remixes and covers that are not offered on Pandora. However, the libraries are quite comparable, and you won’t find any artists who know their onions that appear on one service and not featured on the other.

Though a number of artists have inked exclusive deals with other platforms, others are averse to having any of their work appear on streaming services.

As of now, Spotify has a slim lead in sheer numbers over Pandora, but there’s no difference essentially between both.

Verdict — Tie

Spotify vs. Pandora: Music Discovery

Lying at the core of every streaming platform is its ability to help users find new tunes.

Against this background, music discovery is an integral part of Pandora. The service is driven by the Music Genome Project, which provides listeners with their favourite songs, based on a wide variety of variables.

Other than designing radio stations, the Music Genome Project also helps in curating playlists (if you’ve got Pandora Premium) by adding music automatically, once you’ve picked some songs.

In this category, Spotify can’t be pushed over either; over time, the service has made acquisitions to strengthen its platform. The very popular “Discover Weekly” playlist, which is a 30-song list showing up magically each Monday, creates a blend of your favourite music with music you may love.

The service adds similar features, constantly, enabling you to keep discovering. Its home interface is also captivating with themed playlists, and the “Discover” tab is always at your beck and call. This offers you personalized recommendations that are based on your listening history.

However, we would rate Pandora higher here since, after all, music discovery is its major function, and its radio stations are significantly better than Spotify’s at the moment. But the Discover Weekly option of Spotify is hard to beat.

Verdict — Pandora

Spotify vs. Pandora: Social Features

Spotify vs. Pandora: Social Features
Credit: Photo by HAYOUNG JEON

As regards the power of music to connect people, Spotify and Pandora enable their users to connect with friends, to share their best songs, or simply to recommend artists as well as playlists.

But when we are focusing on the comparison of the social components of each service, there is a wide gulf of differences among these streaming clients. Pandora’s rather drab approach to provision of social features doesn’t offer anything significant to satisfy social media enthusiasts.

Though it allows users to share their favourite stations across Facebook and Twitter, since on-demand playback is locked behind a paywall, this feature feels fairly empty.

Spotify easily beats its rival in this category, as it provides users with a bevy of options that let them share music and connect with friends. It also allows its users to share individual songs, entire playlists, in addition to specific artists, with friends/followers on social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Telegram, or Tumblr.

They can do this by simply clicking the 3 dots displayed on the right. The music streaming service equally added barcodes to songs that you can scan with your mobile device for song data.

Spotify also allows you to collaborate on playlists, and you can even make such collaborative efforts public for anybody to follow. Spotify easily wins in this section.

Verdict — Spotify

Spotify Vs. Pandora: Free/Paid Versions

The 2 services offer free access to streaming music, though with some limitations and occasional ad breaks. In both, you won’t be nagged with ads.

And using the free offerings, you can easily test-drive these services before going for a premium account. These 2 services, however, come with vast differences.

You’re limited to radio functionality with a free Pandora account, so you can only choose a song — or an artist, or an album, or a combination — and it will design a station for you.

To ask Pandora to play similar music in the future, press the “thumbs up” button. To ensure you never hear that same song (or songs like it) again, tap the “thumbs down” button.

Besides, if you are among users of free options, you are only given access to a lower-quality audio stream (which is limited to 64k AAC+ at best). Also, you will not be able to enjoy the luxury of downloading a desktop client, the way users of Pandora Plus or Pandora Premium do.

Users of both the mobile and web platforms have access to similar features, including the same available radio stations, the same amount of skipped songs as well as the same occasional adverts.

As for Spotify users, they get to enjoy far more robust free experience. Though the ads and the loss in audio quality are here as well, with a free Spotify account, users are allowed to listen to music on-demand on the desktop & web apps.

If you are a mobile user, you are restricted to on-demand listening from 15 playlists, which Spotify creates every 24 hours, based on your taste.

You can equally give the ad-free versions of each service a try, without paying a dime. Pandora has a 60-day free trial of its $10/month Pandora Premium service (including on-demand streaming and ad-free radio stations), 30 free days of its $5/month Pandora Plus service (including ad-free radio, but without on-demand streaming).

Spotify provides a free 30-day trial of its $10/month Spotify Premium service (with on-demand listening and radio). The 2 services equally give a discount for a yearly membership.

Due to its free access to on-demand music, Spotify gets the nod in this category.

Verdict — Spotify

Spotify Vs. Pandora: Cost

Though Spotify could have better choices for lovers of freebies, the $5 per month tier of Pandora is an ideal option for users, who seek to rock out to quality tunes, but cannot afford to shell out the full $10/month.

Though the 2 services have $15/month family plans (currently the best option for a group), Spotify has started testing a price plan designed just for 2 people, called Spotify Duo that costs around $10 – $15.

Having got that out of the way, if you are looking to go ad-free with Spotify, you need to pay $10 per month at least. This makes Pandora the better option of the 2.

Verdict — Pandora

In a Nutshell

Even though Pandora has existed for nearly twice as long, it just can’t match the pace of Spotify in terms of versatility and usability.

With the recent launch of Pandora Premium, users can now listen to a vast collection of specific songs as well as albums whenever and wherever they want. However, Pandora is still trying to catch-up with Spotify at this point, and that could take some time and require a lot of work.

Spotify boasts better social features, better apps, and offers you greater value for your money. If you are the kind of music lover who constantly seeks to broaden their musical horizons and has a knack for radio-style listening, Pandora is definitely a reasonable investment for you. But generally, Spotify comes highly recommended. It is, therefore, the overall winner in this contest.

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