While the landscape of on-line music platforms has grown significantly since we first started measuring consumer satisfaction of these services, two major players are often compared: Pandora and Spotify. There are apps like iHeart Radio, Rdio, Beats Music and SoundCloud that give users new ways of discovering music while on the go. For this study, Bridge Ratings focused in on Pandora and Spotify.

The reasons are simple: the two differ in their approach to delivering music for its users. Pandora allows users to create a variety of personal 'radio stations' or music collections based on personal music choices. The Pandora algorithm then manipulates to push or serve a string of songs to the user who can then rate them (thumbs up or down). This further refines the list of songs pushed to the user.

Spotify's allows users to select songs from their large catalogue of music as well as music that may also be on the user's hard drive to create playlists of songs customized in a variety of ways.

Both services offer a free and subscription option.

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The two services have a large user base with Pandora claiming over 70 million active users in the US, Pandora with over 60 million world-wide and 15 million paid subscribers.

As an update to Bridge Ratings' "Pandora Satisfaction Study", we are now able to share a comparative look at the two services in the area of satisfaction.

Analysis of user satisfaction is based on a sample of each platform's users who we classify as "Primes". "Primes" are defined as users of the service who use the service as their primary platform for music streaming on the internet who spend at least one hour per day with the platform.

The study also segmented users into time-use categories, i.e. identifying how long they have used the service. This segmentation allowed us to have clarity on the platform's use over time to determine if behavior and satisfaction changed over time.

Use categories  ranged from new or recent users to the service (0-3 months of weekly use) to those who have used the service for more than two years.

Pandora satisfaction in these bi-annual studies has deteriorated over time with more use as the chart above shows.  Time spent and number of daily sessions decline over time.

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Bridge Ratings was curious if this is simply a natural phenomenon of music services or if it was specific to Pandora.

In the new study fielded during the month of January 2015, we can see the two services side-by-side in user satisfaction.

Satisfaction TRENDLINES for each service tell the story.


Pandora satisfaction for users of both their free and subscription service has settled in the 75% range for  those who have used the service for six months or less who are "highly satisfied" with their experience.

High satisfaction for new or recent users to Spotify is 92% which may seem logical however unlike Pandora, "Highly Satisfied" scores for Spotify retain their high number across all user time categories. 

When comparing long-term users of these services - those having used the service for more that two years, the differences are striking. Even after two years of use Spotify retains an 80% "Highly Satisfied" score.

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The attribute portion of the study spotlights satisfaction differences.

Spotify's attribute advantages include perceived song selection and lack of song or artist repetition.  It must be pointed out, though, that the differences in the services provide likely reasons. Repetition as a negative attribute on Spotify is highly customized by virtue of which songs the user selects to place in their playlists and ultimately stream.  For Pandora, choice of artist or song repetition is not controllable except for the "thumbs up/thumbs down" component of Pandora voting.

Still lack of repetition is a significant strength for Spotify as is song selection.

Pandora leads in "ease of use" and "customization".

Pandora also leads with perceived song and artist quantity. Many popular artists are not available on Spotify as of this report.

We also found that each platform has unique attributes which satisfy specific user needs. These unique attributes steer preference. For example, among women 25-49, Spotify tends to be favored in the attribute of "plays a higher percentage of songs I like more often".

Other attributes that steer preference depend on the type of music consumer. Audiophiles with eclectic taste in music may find not many of their favorite artists on a particular service. New music discovery - fans of unfamiliar songs or artists find Spotify's sharing component a high reason to use the service more because they discover more new music through sharing playlists with friends.

Final thoughts

Other considerations for ease of use include the mobile app component. A majority of on-line streaming now occurs through mobile devices. In this study,  Spotify is considered one of the best music streaming services available for iOS and Android devices. Spotify consistently updates and refreshes its look based on its users demands. Spotify’s interface is user friendly and sports a beautiful black theme. 

Pandora offers a great radio-type experience for listeners who don’t want to put too much effort into selecting music, Pandora is perceived to have a better song selection algorithm than Spotify’s radio selection, however with the amount of features Spotify offers for the monthly cost, it may provide you with a lot more value.

Overall, in this study, Spotify is preferred, though each has its own attribute strengths. Individual user need directs preferential differences.

Additional data points:

  • Advertiser recall
  • Commercial interruption variants
  • Streamies: passive vs. active
  • Daily listening occasions
  • Time Spent Per Occasion
  • Impact on music purchase

This study was based on responses from a national sample of  persons ages 12+. 3118 Pandora Primes, 3020 Spotify Primes. "Primes" are defined as prime users of a specific service whose preferred platform for streaming music they spent at least 60 minutes a day with.  Sample error: +/- 1.8% with a 90% confidence level.


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This study was based on responses from a national sample of  persons ages 12+. 3118 Pandora Primes, 3020 Spotify Primes. "Primes" are defined as prime users of a specific service whose preferred platform for streaming music they spent at least 60 minutes a day with.  Sample error: +/- 1.8% with a 90% confidence level.