What is Pandora?

Enjoy your favorite tunes and discover new ones on Pandora Radio

With over 50 million active monthly listeners, Pandora is among the most popular music streaming services. Even so, you might not have heard of it or know why it's such a great way to listen to music online. Let's check out the basics.

A Couple Listening to Streaming Music
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What Is Pandora?

Pandora is a music streaming service and app that you can use to stream music on a variety of devices, including your smartphone, tablet, computer, smart TV, smart speakers, car stereo system, Blu-ray player, or game console.

Pandora allows you to create personalized radio stations based on an artist or song that you like. Once you select a seed song or artist, Pandora automatically gathers and plays songs with similar qualities.

A subsidiary of Sirius/XM Holdings, Pandora refers to these similar qualities as "music genomes." They might include tags of descriptors such as folksy, female vocal, strong drums, or other recognizable aspects that help orient a work of music to others like it.

Create Your Own Pandora Radio Station

Pandora works a bit like radio. You can choose to listen to a station you made based on an artist or song that you like, but you cannot choose to listen to a specific song or replay a certain track—at least not in the free version of the service. And you are allowed to skip only a limited number of songs per day with the free version.

The iPhone Pandora music app

Each station has a name based on its characteristics when you selected it. Examples might include 80s Pop Hits, Elton John Radio, Holiday Radio, or Italian Cooking Music Radio. For stations that carry an artist's name, you will hear music from other artists that have a similar style or is one of the artist's contemporaries.

You can customize the music on the station to be more to your liking by choosing the thumbs up, thumbs down, or never play options. This is an effective way to fine-tune your stations, of which you can create up to 100.

Six Reasons to Love Pandora

Most people find Pandora to be easy and enjoyable. Here are some reasons why.

  • You don't have to wade through tons of albums, artists, and songs to listen to music you like. Spend as much time as you want to personalize your stations or reject songs you don't want to hear.
  • You can create a station for every mood. Find a good dance song, dinner music, or oldies, and create stations for each. Share your favorite stations by gifting them to friends or have them gift you their stations.
  • Discover new music based on songs or artists that are similar to those you've already liked.
  • Access your Pandora account on many devices, including phones, computers, smart TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, networked home theater and stereo receivers, and game consoles.
  • Pandora provides detailed information about songs. When listening on a computer, click the lyrics to read (or sing) along.
  • Pandora can be used in conjunction with Alexa on compatible devices. Set it up as Alexa's default music service so that when you ask Alexa to play music, it goes to Pandora first.

Pandora Free

The free Pandora service is ad-supported by pop-up web and audio ads on your streaming media devices. The audio ads repeat every three or four songs. If you like to work with continuous music in the background, this may be annoying.

You can listen to as many songs you want, all day, every day, without incurring a subscription charge as long as the ads don't bother you.

Pandora interface showing different genres.

However, if you want to listen without ads and gain extra features, Pandora offers paid subscription services: Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium. There is also a Pandora Premium Family plan, which offers all of the features of Premium for to up to six unique Pandora accounts.

You can sign up for any of these services right away or upgrade after listening to the free version for a while.

Pandora Plus

For $4.99 per month ($54.89 per year), you can upgrade your free account to Pandora Plus. Here are the benefits:

  • No ads. 
  • Skip or replay as many songs as you like. You don't have to shelve a song or give it a thumbs down. Just skip a song that doesn't suit your present mood.
  • Listen to up to three stations of your choice offline, plus your Thumbprint Radio, which amalgamates all your liked tracks with some extras. Online listening is only available on compatible mobile phones using the Pandora app.
  • Better sound quality. Pandora streams songs in a compressed format like most digital music files. If you want a fuller, richer experience, you can stream a higher bit rate with Pandora Plus. This is particularly desirable when listening to high-quality speakers in your home theater.

Pandora Premium

For $9.99/month or $109.89/year, you can get Pandora Premium. It includes all the Pandora Plus features plus:

  • Fully customizable playlists.
  • Search and play on-demand listening.
  • Download any songs you want for offline listening.

Pandora Premium Family Plan

This subscription option provides the features of Pandora Premium for up to six users in a household. Since there can be multiple subscribers, an additional feature, referred to as Our Soundtrack, combines each family member's musical preferences into a single playlist. The playlist is added to each person's My Music Collection.

The Pandora Premium Family plan is priced at $14.99 per month ($164.89 per year). If you're a current Pandora subscriber and wish to upgrade to the Premium Family Plan, there are some restrictions.

Annual subscriptions, student and military discounts, and the Pandora Premium Family plan can only be purchased from the Pandora website. Pandora Premium is only available from certain subscription providers.

  • Is there a Pandora desktop app?

    Yes. The Pandora app for PC is only available for Pandora Plus or Premium subscribers.

  • Which devices will play Pandora?

    Pandora is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Fire OS, Android devices, and smart TVs like Amazon Fire TV and Android TV. You can stream Pandora from your computer or mobile device to media servers, car stereos, or Bluetooth speakers. You can even listen to Pandora on your Apple Watch.

  • How do I turn off Pandora?

    To turn off Pandora, close the app or close the browser window. You should close the Pandora app on your phone when it's not in use so that it doesn't drain your battery.

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