Spotify vs. Pandora

There’s a lot of talk right now about Spotify’s new radio functionality that not only greatly improves on their previously lame attempt at “radio,” but also reportedly gives Pandora a run for its money. Though I’m not a frequent Pandora listener, I have found their careful classification to result in pretty darn fine listening.

I decided to run my own comparison using my favorite song of the year, Nostalgia 77’s “Simmerdown” as the base. The song has a very distinct groove and vocal tone, so I was curious to see which radio provided the best listening. (I would have included other streaming services in the test, but none offer radio based on elements of a single track.) Here’s what I heard:

Spotify

  • Nostalgia 77 – Beautiful Lie
  • Kinny – Water for Chocolate featuring Souldrop
  • Lizzy Parks – All That (Natural Self Remix)
  • Sola Rosa – Ready Now
  • Quantic and his Combo Bárbaro – Undelivered Letter
  • Ebo Taylor – Heaven
  • Skeletons – Marathon Man
  • Flevans – Loose Gardener
  • Quantic presenta Flowering Inferno – Cuidad Del Swing
  • Unforscene – Don’t You Worry Feat Alice Russell
  • Quantic and his Combo Bárbaro – Canção Do Deserto
  • Belleruche – The Itch (Acoustic Version)
  • Bonobo – Terrapin
  • Lizzy Parks – Raise The Roof

A number of Tru Thoughts tracks came up (appropriately, as that’s Nostalgia 77’s label) including Belleruche, but there were also some other wonderful songs I’d never heard before, like Kinny’s “Water for Chocolate.”

Pandora

  • Baby Charles – Life’s Begun
  • Bobby Rush – I Am Good As Gone
  • Dave Matthews Band – Grey Street (Live 2007)
  • The RH Factor – Forget Regret (feat. Stephanie McKay)
  • Mindi Abair – Get Right
  • Con Brio – Not At All
  • D-Influence – Shake It
  • JackSoul – As We
  • Ben Sidran – Ballad of a Thin Man

Of this batch, there were two terrible choices that I thumbed-down (thumbs-downed?) after about 30 seconds (Dave Matthews Band and D-Influence) and two that I thought were really good matches in terms of vibe, tempo, and vocals (The RH Factor and Con Brio).

The Verdict

Spotify served up a really solid collection of tracks that were very much in line with the vibe of the original track. I was quite impressed by Spotify’s list, enjoying the entire hour-plus of music. I’m not sure what they’re using to generate the list of suggestions, but their algorithm is pretty darn good.

I was surprised at how underwhelmed I was by Pandora’s line-up, especially when Dave Matthews hit (shudder). I ended up cutting my listening short because Pandora just wasn’t holding my attention. It wasn’t a complete failure, though, giving me two excellent tracks I’d never heard before.

One other difference between the two offerings: Spotify allows unlimited “thumbs down”s while Pandora cuts off at 12 per day for free users (and 6 per hour for all users).

Pandora’s the go-to for smart radio, but Spotify’s starting to make things interesting. (MOG: you should come along for the ride!)