What is Pandora?

Enjoy your favorite tunes and discover new ones on Pandora Radio

With about 80 million active listeners, it seems that most people have at least heard of Pandora. Still, you might not know why you should use Pandora to listen to music online. Let's check out the basics.

A Couple Listening to Streaming Music
andresr / Collection E+ / Getty Images

What Pandora Is

Pandora is a music streaming service that you can listen to on a number of devices, such as a PC or laptop, a media streamer, a smart TV, smart speakers, select car stereo systems, a Blu-ray player, an AV receiver, and more.

Pandora is a subsidiary of Sirius/XM Holdings.

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 gathers songs with similar qualities to play.

These similar qualities are referred to as music genomes by Pandora and might include folksy, female vocal, strong drums, or other recognizable aspects of the music that tie it to similar tunes.

Create Your Own Pandora Radio Station

Every time you choose the station you made, you hear a series of similar songs, but you may not hear the same songs. You can't choose to listen to only specific artists, nor can you choose to hear a song at a specific time.

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, and 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.

It's like a radio station in that you choose the kind of music you want to hear. Still, you can't choose when you'll hear a specific song, and you can't replay a song. You are allowed to skip a limited number of songs each day.

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.

You can create up to 100 stations.

Six Reasons to Love Pandora

Using Pandora is easy and enjoyable. Here are several 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 thumbs down songs you don't want to hear. Shelve songs you get tired of hearing.
  • 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 that you may like because it's similar to the song or artist you already like.
  • Access your Pandora account on many devices, including media streamers, smart TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, networked home theater and stereo receivers, and smartphones. Pandora is accessible in select car radios or connect your smartphone if your car radio has a compatible connection.
  • You have information about the song. When listening on a computer, click the lyrics to belt it out along with the music.
  • 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 to find it.

Pandora Free

The free Pandora service is ad-supported by pop-up web ads and audio ads on your streaming media devices that 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 three paid subscription services: Pandora Plus, Pandora Premium, and Pandora Family.

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, which replaced Pandora's former subscription service Pandora One. Here are the benefits:

  • No ads. 
  • Skip 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. You can also replay songs.
  • Listen to up to four stations of your choice offline. 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.
  • Download a desktop app for your PC or Mac so you can control Pandora without opening a web browser.

You can try Pandora Plus for 30 days free.

Pandora Premium

Pandora Plus offers additional perks over the free Pandora service. However, if you want more (especially if you listen to Pandora on a mobile device), check out what Pandora Premium adds for an extra monthly fee. It includes all the Pandora Plus features plus:

  • No timeouts.
  • Fully customizable playlists.
  • Search and play on-demand listening.
  • Download any songs you want (mobile only).

The price for Pandora Premium is $9.99 per month ($109.89 per year)

You can try Pandora Premium for 60 days free.

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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