Free is always better, right…which is why many still turn to Pandora to listen to streaming music (with ads, of course), which allowed them to create stations based on their favorite artists, tracks or genre. That was until Songza came into the picture. The free music streaming service doesn’t boast that popular Music Genome Project, but it does offer some cool playlists that will literally fit every mood and occasion you can think of! Read on to see how they measure up against one another.
Streaming music is where it’s at! Pandora has been around for a while and was top dog in the free music streaming world until Songza came around with a similar idea to provide free streaming music. But instead of allowing users to create their own stations, Songza has thousands of premade ones that have a variety of tunes based on its title. And just like there’s an app for practically anything, Songza has a playlist for every mood, kind of party and more!
Songza is compatible with PC/Mac computers, iOS devices like iPhones and iPads, Androids and even the Kindle Fire. Unlike Songza, Pandora has a lot of devices it works with. So besides your basic devices like PCs and Mac computers, it works on iOS devices and Android ones; various tablets like NOOK and Kindle Fires; DirectTV, Dish Network, Verizon FIOS TV; Blu-ray players from Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba; TVs from Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba; Table-top devices like Logitech WiFi Music Players, Rotel Hi-Fi Tuners, Sangean Internet Radios, Livio Radio, HP DreamScreen, Grace Digital Internet Radios, Chumby, Cambridge Audio, Sony Dash, Sonoro elements W and Acoustic Research; digital media players like Roku, Sonos, VUDU, TiVO DVRs and so many more; and home theater systems from LG, Panasonic, RCA, Samsung and Sony. And that’s not even mentioning that many vehicles now offer in-car Pandora listening capability via stock navi systems and lots of aftermarket radios. Check out their site (all the way at the bottom in the small print, to be exact) to find out what models and makes.
Signing up for Songza is the easiest site I’ve ever signed up for. Simply click on the sign up button on the top right and you either can log in via your Facebook account (which allows for social interaction) or by creating a username and password and providing your email address. That’s it! The site’s layout is also very minimal. At first glance, it sort of looks like a blog with a black border, only three tabs at the top, a search box and your profile tab right next to that. All the meat of the site is a white square. The first page you look at when you log in is the Music Concierge tab that shows the recent playlists you’ve listened to. It’s blank until you finally listen to something. The Popular tab shows popular playlists that are trending right now, this week and even this year. It provides you 20 options. The last tab, Browse All, is where you really get to pick out the playlists you’d like to stream. Here you can look for playlists based on genres, activities (like parties, BBQing and even Curing Road Rage), Moods (happy, sad, brooding, etc.), decades, culture and record store clerk, which includes titles like “Beatlmania” and “Important Record Labels.” So basically you have lots of ways to search for playlists depending on the occasion, your mood and genre.
Once you choose a playlist to listen to, a new tab comes up, allowing you to do a variety of things. You can save it, share it on social media feeds, and check out who created it, how many followers it has and more. The streaming media player becomes a new tab to the top right of the page with stop, forward, sound, thumbs up/down for liking it or not and another share button. At the bottom of the playlist, it shows other playlists similar to the one you’re listening, playlists with similar artists and recent listeners, with Facebook comments way at the bottom (and the option to write something and have it posted to your Facebook feed).
You can’t create your own playlists at all (but you can amend them by the like or dislike button), and you can’t see how many songs are in that particular playlist, so it’s like a never-ending selection of music that pertains to the theme of playlist. If you have a particular artist or song in mind, just do a search and you’ll find playlists that contains the artist/song, but you won’t get an all-one-artist playlist either. You can seriously go on for hours at a time finding playlists, but the best part about it is that it’s totally ad free.
Pandora revamped their computer application design to be as minimalistic as Songza (even though it’s always had a simple layout). The player and its controls are all at the top, with the new station search box right to the left of the player. For your home screen, it’s whatever station you’ve been listening to, with a list of all others below that. whatever artist is currently playing features a small bio, similar artists and an option to share the station or track via FB, email or Twitter.
For the buy option, it shows iTunes or buy CD from Amazon (as if anyone buys CDs anymore). Next to the Now Playing Tab is Music Feed and My Profile. The Music Feed tab allows you to follow any friends and see what they’re listening to by either logging into your FB account or via an email addy or name. If you want to look at the various genres of music that’s featured on the site, it’s a very small option all the way at the bottom of the page since Pandora is all about creating a music station based on what you want to hear, with the New Station search box the key to the site. The bottom of the site is also where all the info on Mobile, Auto Devices, etc. is.
If you don’t like a song in your playlist, just give it a thumbs down and you won’t hear it again in that station. But there is a limit to how many skips of songs you do in a roll, because if you dislike a lot of songs in a short period of time, you won’t be able to skip disliked or thumbs down songs for a while, which sucks. Sometimes, their famous Music Genome Project doesn’t always get it right. You can also chose to “Add Variety” by clicking it under the currently playing station, which allows you to type in the name of another artist, tract, etc. for Pandora to add music with musical qualities to the station. They’ve changed QuickMix to Shuffle, but it works in the same way. Shuffling your stations provides a more diverse mix of music by randomly playing songs from the stations in your list.
Winner: Songza’s tabs are easier to navigate
First and foremost, there are no audio ads, and only some relatively unobtrusive banners. With no limits on how many songs you can skip, and the app has the same playlists as the computer app. When you open the app, you are greeted by the “concierge”, who usefully reminds you not only what day it is, but what part of the day it is, along with some themed playlists that are likely to fit your mood at the moment. But you can also go to your saved playlists, browse popular ones or do a search of artists/songs you’d like to hear. You can either sign in via Facebook or via your username, or even create one if you don’t have the desktop app. The app is just as easy to navigate as the computer one, with a very minimal user face that’s pretty self-explanatory. You just go through playlists based on what you feel like hearing or depending on the occasion. With so many playlists, you can spend hours exploring your options, which might be a downfall since you can take up a lot of time trying to FINALLY figure out a playlist since they all sound so enticing!
Pandora’s mobile app has all your favorite stations that you can arrange by date or by alphabetical order. The app still has QuickMix instead of the Shuffle like in the computer app, but does the same thing. Your stations tab is what the app opens up to, with new station tab right next to that, which features the search box for other artists, genres or songs. It does, however, allow u to search via what you type into the search box or via the Genre tab. The Bookmarks tab next to New Station, which has been taken out of the computer app, but kept in the mobile app. It allows your to bookmark songs or artists you like. Like the computer app, it still features ads, which is very annoying! Once a song plays you can thumbs up or down it, as well as click on the up arrow to show a number of options like start a new station, share station, buy on iTunes, bookmark or to say you’re tired of this track. If you share it, your contacts list shows up. You can’t share it to your social media sites using the phone app.
Winner: Songza’s app is more intuitive
Songza doesn’t list their sound quality, and when we reached out, we never got a response so no official specs at this moment. But to our ears, it sounds pretty good. Pandora does disclose its sound quality, which it states as being plays 64k AAC+ for free listeners on the web, with all in-home devices play 128k audio, and mobile devices receive a variety of different rates depending on the capability of the device and the network they are on, but never more than 64k AAC+.
Winner: Pandora since they list their wound quality
Again no official word on how in-depth their music catalogue is, but they have thousands of playlists, which indicates they have lots of music from practically every genre. You can even pick out a playlist with The Beatles! Pandora doesn’t list how many songs are in their database, but a quick search on the web found that there are more than 900,000 songs in their collection, as answered by Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder on Quora’s site, but it’s from a post back in October of last year.
Winner: Pandora, since they at least list how many songs they have in their database
Songza is very social media friendly and allows you to log in using your Facebook account on both the computer and mobile app, so it’s easy to post what you’re listening to on Facebook. It also automatically makes you follow other friends on Facebook that are using it, too. You can even leave a comment on the playlist that you’re listening to that will automatically post to your Facebook page. When using the mobile app you can Facebook it, Tweet it, email it and even buy the track in the iTunes store if you really dig it. Pandora’s computer app is social, but its mobile isn’t. The Music Feed Tab is where all the social stuff goes down.
Winner: Songza allows for you to be social on its computer and mobile app
Both are free, so there that’s obviously a perk! Other than that, you get access to all of each of the site’s musical capabilities for nothing! But Songza has no ads in between songs that are annoying, while Pandora does this, and you can easily still Like a song after it has finished playing. Pandora does offer a special membership package upgrade called Pandora One that gets you no adds, higher quality audio (When listening on the web, experience music at 192K bits per second. More bits means better sounding audio), the Pandora One Desktop Application, you can play your PANDORA stations right from your desktop – without even needing to open a web browser, custom skins that will allow you to personalize the look of your Pandora and fewer interruptions so that you can listen for up to five hours in a row without interacting with Pandora at all. There’s a 24-hour free trial period for those interested.
Winner: Pandora offers a paid membership for those who want more from Pandora
With Songza, playlists are premade and you can’t really do anything about it. You can put in a request for a playlist, and cross your fingers Songza peeps build it, but other than that, you can’t build your own. However, you can amend playlists with the thumbs up or down button so that you don’t get songs you don’t like again in that particular playlist when you listen to it again. For Pandora, there’s a limit to how many songs you can skip if you don’t like them. Pandora only permits 6 skips per hour per station for up to 12 total skips per day across all stations.
Winner: Songza since having those premade playlists isn’t as bad as having to pay for no-ad service from Pandora.
Did we mention they were both FREE! But if you want to upgrade to Pandora One, it’s $36 for a one-year subscription or $3.99 for a one-month subscription.
This is a first for us! A tie, meaning you really can’t go wrong with either free music streaming site because they both offer different things. Songza has no ads, but doesn’t allow you to build your own stations, while Pandora has ads and allows you to build your own stations. However, we cave two wins to Pandora automatically (Sound Quality and Catalogue since Songza doesn’t disclose this info and attempts to reach out to get it have gone unanswered, so it might sway depending on if we get this or not. But for now, it’s a tie!
Kristie Bertucci is an L.A.-based writer, who can't live without her MacBook Pro. When she's not writing, she's either reading or shopping (online, of course) and loves lazy days so she can catch up on her DVR-recorded shows and movies. She's definitely a Mac girl, she loves music and is currently on a mission to to have an insane and enviable iTunes library.