As Pandora rolls out its new design, with an increased emphasis on music sharing, the big question is: How does it compare to Spotify? While the two music services are separate products, with generally separate audiences and features, it's a question worth asking.
Pandora now has a music feed that lets you follow the listening activities of your friends. If they give a song a "Thumbs Up" or listen to their favorite station, the activity gets logged. Spotify's feed, in contrast, only shows songs and playlists friends have shared to Facebook and Twitter.
This distinction-liking vs. sharing-seems subtle but actually makes for a notable difference.
On Pandora, we give "Thumbs Up" to a song in an (until now) private moment, and only choose to share it publically to Facebook and Twitter if we feel that the world shouldn't live without it.
And while songs are shared on Spotify for this reason too, the act feels a bit less deliberate than on Pandora, as users often share songs out of self-expression, more to make a statement about themselves-similar to Facebook or Twitter status update-than a statement about the song's musical quality.
During a listening session, we like many songs on Pandora, but may not be compelled enough to share them. This activity, however, is logged, making for a wider and arguably better pool of music activity.
Why? The false sense of privacy makes users more truthful about what songs they like and may provide a more accurate sampling of music specifically because users liked it without advertising it.
Next, let's compare Spotify's playlists to Pandora's stations. Playlists are Spotify's killer app; they can be shared with friends and if a mix stands out, you can subscribe and add songs to it too. This makes a powerful experience, as the more friends you have, the more playlists you gain.
However, more isn't always better. Like Pandora, the problem Spotify runs into is that not everyone makes the best DJ. Some friends are better at it than others-and some friends will always be better than others-so you take your chances.
When you listen to a friend's station, you get to peak into their musical world and uncover the diamonds they found in the rough, as many of the "lesser" songs have already been pruned. Some listeners curate stations more carefully than others, but each "Thumbs Up" or "Down" given to a song impacts what gets played, and often, a few of them makes all the difference.
Oddly, the saving grace of Pandora may be that users surrender control; they take a playlist as it comes, not knowing what will play next. On Spotify you still play DJ. With unlimited song skips-compared to Pandora's allotted six per hour-it's tempting to abandon playlists early on, making such freedom a blessing and curse.
Here, Pandora and Spotify are comparable, but it's difficult to compare apples to apples, because Spotify doesn't yet have U.S. licenses for artist radio stations.
Though, the best songs are often those shared between friends and that's where Spotify beats Pandora in regards to sharing-hands down.
In terms of quality and quantity, which music service provides the best shared music selection? Please share your opinion in the comments section below...