In today's media-driven world, music streaming has become a hot market-and Pandora is one of the leading names in that market.
A subsidiary of Pandora Media, Inc., Pandora was founded in January 2000 by Tim Westergren, Will Glaser, and Jon Kraft. Its current CEO is Brian P. McAndrews. While its headquarters are in Oakland, California, the business streams music for people all over the United States as well as in New Zealand and Australia. More than 1,300 employees strong, Pandora has 26 office locations and (as of 2012) brings in about $274 million in revenue.
If you've used Pandora at all, you may have heard of an effort called the Music Genome Project.
Doesn't ring a bell?
The project is basically the effort of music analysts to study every facet of every genre of music-all in the effort to anticipate what song you, the user, would want to hear next. These analysts examine more than 400 musical traits of each and every song. Considered "musicologists," they typically have a four-year degree in music theory, composition, or performance.
With this extensive background, the people on the Music Genome Project use their expertise to not only master your personal listening preferences but also introduce you to music you'd probably love. In this vein, Pandora is an excellent resource for streaming music you already like and discovering new tunes.
So what can you expect with Pandora?
For starters, their basic version is ad-supported-a.k.a. free to users. To sign up, you enter your email address, gender, zip code, and birth year and create a password to sign in. After that, you can browse stations that are based on songs, artists, genres, and occasions. While listening, you can click the familiar thumbs up or down, and Pandora will keep track of your likes and dislikes and base their suggestions off of those.
For users, probably the best and simplest aspect of Pandora is that it's free. If you're tired of hearing an ad every several songs, you can certainly subscribe to the uninterrupted Pandora One for $4.99 per month. But if not, you can count on Pandora to listen to a wide variety of songs at no cost.
And what a wide variety they have!
With Pandora, you can listen to practically every genre out there-everything from alternative and rock, to blues and jazz, to oldies, to pop, to country. What's more, you can look up stations specifically for dinner parties, road trips, and holidays. Oh, the convenience of it all. Pandora stays up-to-date with new releases as well.
There's also room on your Pandora account to create up to 100 different stations. So it's no problem to save mixes for your workouts, your kids, and your study time. Once you create a station on Pandora, it will stay on your account unless you delete it-ready for you to access at the click of a button.
Conveniently, Pandora also saves all your preferences. Once you click a thumbs up or down for a song, Pandora takes note. If you click up, the song is added to the list of likes in your account history. If you click down, Pandora will never play the song again. (And if you click the button in between for "I'm tired of this track," Pandora understands. They'll take a break from playing it for awhile.)
Here's another bonus: Say you're feeling indecisive and don't know which genre you're in the mood for. There's an option to hit shuffle, and Pandora will play songs from all the stations you want.
Unlike some competitors, Pandora doesn't require you to download anything to stream their music. You can simply sign in and hit play. They will also play on a variety of devices, including Web, iOS, Windows, and Android. You can listen to it on home devices, on your phone, or in the car.
Besides the conveniences of actually streaming their music, Pandora has a positive reputation with 14 years of experience to back them up. Their staff are considered music experts (those "musicologists" from the Music Genome Project we talked about). So you can feel confident that they'll understand your tastes and be able to match them.
Every rose has its thorn, however, and positive as Pandora's reputation is, it does have its limitations.
For better or worse, "free" isn't purely free for everyone. Because Pandora makes no money off consumers who use their free version, they display banner ads and interrupt your streaming every several songs to play a 30-second ad. (What's more, they often repeat the same ads for days.) So you have to either be willing to pay for Pandora One or put up with the interruptions.
In addition to ad interruptions, Pandora also times out on you. If you've been streaming music for an hour or two without clicking anything, Pandora will stop playing and ask if you're still listening. If you are, you can just hit yes and keep listening. But you might get tired of the pauses.
Next limitation: the limit on the number of skips. For one reason or another, we all want to skip a few songs when streaming music. But with Pandora, you can only skip a handful of songs per hour. If you happen to be skipping a lot of songs, you'll eventually have to put up with the current song or switch to a different station.
In essence, while Pandora is a leading service for discovering new music, it doesn't give you as much control as other competitors do. With services like Spotify, you can select specific songs to stream or put your favorite track on repeat. Unfortunately, Pandora doesn't let you do that. Instead, you're fed whatever songs they suggest.
The Bottom Line
At the heart of it, Pandora is a prime tool for music discovery. From its beginnings, its staff members have strived to scrutinize all types of song and introduce users to music based on their individual tastes. It's also one of the few streaming services that offers a free version (though it's supported by ads).
So despite some lack of control you'd have with Pandora, you can expect to enjoy a wide variety of stations and a ton of suggestions that are based on your preferences. You can also be confident that you're giving business to an experienced company that has helped lead the way in the online music industry we know today.
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