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Finding the Right Audio Streaming Platform for Your Needs

There are so many different ways for people to stream audio these days. And, thus, so many different streaming platforms for us to choose from. When it comes to music, though, finding out which service is right for your own unique needs and desires can be much trickier than, say, deciding on Hulu versus Netflix for TV and movies. TV and movie streaming services have a certain level of transparency that music streaming platforms do not seem to intrinsically possess.

This is probably because the bigger video streaming platforms are constantly fluctuating content and announcing those changes publicly. Plus, you are much more likely to actually see a friend or family member using Hulu or Netflix, as it is often broadcast in front of you, than you are to see somebody actually using, say, Spotify or Tidal. People tend to this more privately. And, therefore, the only way, typically, to find out if one music streaming service is better for you is by either word of mouth or actually signing up for a trial membership to one of them and seeing for yourself.

However, obviously, if you can avoid signing up for a trial membership, all the better, right? I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have created an account with a subscription service on a trial basis, telling myself, ‘this time you will remember to cancel before the membership auto-renews.’ Of course, I never remember to do that, though. As a result, I have been stuck with paying for at least a month of a service that I have no interest in continuing to use. That is exactly how they get you. And precisely why these streaming services offer trial memberships. They know that 99% of people are going to forget to cancel in time.

But what if I told you that this was no longer the only way to get a glimpse into a certain streaming service? What if I told you that you can figure out in just a matter of a few minutes whether a service is right for you? Well, that is precisely what I am here to do. Because let’s face it, none of us has the time to test out all these different apps and streaming sites to see if they are worth our hard-earned money. So, allow me to do it for you.

So, then, which audio streaming site is the right one for you? Well, the answer to that question depends on one crucial thing that only you can answer: what do you want to get out of a music streaming service? If you want to have tons of playlists curated for you by complex algorithms based on your listening habits, then perhaps you should go with Spotify. If you want access to tons of exclusive songs and live performances (as well as music videos), Tidal will probably be the app for you. And if you care about the convenience of having all of your devices and music synched up, Apple Music might be your best bet.

But what about those of us who miss listening to the radio? I mean, the good parts of listening to the radio. The thrill of not knowing what is going to play next. The excitement you feel when your favorite song comes on. The ability to discover new music without having to hunt it down yourself. Well, if that is what you want out of a music streaming service, then maybe you will be best off with Pandora.

The Oldest Music Streaming Platform on the Market

There is a good chance that you are already familiar with Pandora, as it is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) audio streaming platform that is still in existence. And prior to the advent of apps like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Pandora was something of the go-to site for music lovers. It was truly one of the most novel approaches to music streaming of all time when it first came out. And, frankly, most of the big music streaming companies that dominate the industry today wouldn’t exist had it not been for Pandora paving the way.

Pandora was founded in 2000. However, when it first hit the scene, it looked remarkably different from the Pandora we know today. In fact, one could say that the very first iteration of Pandora was the website for the Music Genome Project, which offered a visual journey through your favorite music. The site kind of looked like a family tree, with each song in its own bubble. Liking or disliking that song created new bubbles that grew out of the original one. From there, you could visually graph your listening experience, from artist zero onward. This is where the Pandora algorithm would eventually come from.

Today, the experience is much less visual. All one has to do on Pandora is to choose an artist or a song and allow the site or the app to create a radio station based on it. All of the complicated work of how each song tonally and stylistically relates to the next is done behind the scenes. All you have to do, then, as the listener, is sit back and enjoy your personalized radio station. Liking or disliking a song, as was the case with the Music Genome Project, will alter the course of your radio station, and a station more accurate to your tastes will be created.

If you have used Pandora in the past (as many of us have), perhaps you recall being annoyed by the number of ads that interrupted radio play. This, of course, is one of the main reasons that many of us turned away from actual, traditional radio to begin with. Well, Pandora now has two different ways for you to enjoy ad-free customized radio listening.

Freemium with Two Affordable Payment Plan Options

Pandora is a freemium service. So, should you desire, you can always just grit your teeth and bear the ads which occur about every 2 to 3 songs. Or, if you are willing to add on a new streaming service to your monthly bills, you can opt into upgrading either to Pandora Plus or Pandora Premium.

With Pandora Plus, for only $4.99 a month, ads are taken away completely; you can search for and play anything; enjoy podcasts; be granted unlimited skips (ad-free), and listen offline (also not available in the free version). Should you wish to shell out $9.99 a month (the same as Spotify), Pandora offers you all of that, plus the ability to make and share playlists with other Pandora users and via social media. Personally, I like the fact that Pandora offers a viable audio streaming service that can compete with Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music for $5 a month. That is a huge part of Pandora’s allure, in my opinion.

A Relatively Small Library of Music

One area where Pandora falls a little bit shy of the mark, though, when compared to the other big-name audio streaming services is in its number of songs. Tidal boasts, for instance, 60 million tracks. Spotify claims to have half that at 30 million. Apple Music falls right in the middle of the two at 45 million. However, Pandora only has 2 million songs.

This is disappointing for a number of reasons. But mostly because with Pandora’s radio model, you would expect them to at least have as many songs as Spotify … the more songs on a platform, of course, the more variety and customization is available for you Pandora stations. At only 2 million songs, however, I worry about the potential problem of repetition. Plus, as far as I know, artists cannot upload their own music to Pandora the way that they can on Apple Music or Spotify – which means that, of those 2 million songs, the majority of them are probably going to be comprised of more popular, well-known artists. So, there won’t be much in the way of discovering newer, more underground, or up and coming artists.

As far as usability is concerned, though, Pandora is probably the most intuitive and user-friendly music streaming service out there. This is mostly due to the fact that most of the work is done for you. All you have to do is select an artist and let Pandora create your station from it. All you have to do is hit the “thumbs up” button when you like a song and the “thumbs down” when you don’t. This results in a very minimalist app and site design that looks as good as it feels to use.

All in all, Pandora may not be the largest music streaming platform, but it does offer a unique experience, and at only $5 a month for Pandora Plus, it can offer a fun, alternative way to listen to music that doesn’t require you to do any of the work.

Likes & Hates:
Unique listening experience
Minimalist, streamlined site and app design
Freemium service with a $5/month option
Powerful customized algorithms
Insufficient quantity of songs
Not enough user options