I just read a post by Bob Lefsetz and feel like I need to address my feelings about Pandora. In August of 2005 I stumbled across Pandora and posted about it on Strategize because I thought it was a really cool service. To be honest I was so busy with the summer season that I did not revisit Pandora — last August they were only giving 10 hours free and then you had to pay for the service or it would no longer provide you with service.
When I read the post by Lefsetz, I checked the service out again. Instead of having a trial period and then requiring paid subscription, Pandora now has an ad-supported free site and an ad-free paid subscription plan. There are a lot of web companies out there that provide free services in return for the ability to run ads — one of the biggest is Google. Lefsetz seems to have a problem with this model:
It’s not about turning you on to new music, it’s about selling ADVERTISING! Oh, you can avoid ads by paying three bucks a month.
Exactly correct, Bob, if you choose not to pay for the service, you have to look at ads. Lefsetz goes on to complain about the programming and matching capabilities of the Pandora service. I have to admit that if I was paying for the service, I wouldn’t be 100% happy about the content that Pandora provides, but the fact that I can now use the service, albeit with ads, for free makes me feel a little better about investing my time to listen.
I spent much of the day listening to a station that I created with Counting Crows as the base artist — Pandora was open and running in a tab and I was doing other stuff on the web and writing blog posts. Maybe half a dozen times I clicked over to the Pandora tab to skip a song, but on the whole, I didn’t think the content was too bad; once or twice I even clicked over to Pandora to check out who was singing a song that I had never heard before. With regard to the ads: they seem to be mostly ads for content on iTunes and I was not aware that some of the content advertised was available on iTunes, so I didn’t mind it so much.
Here’s my take on Pandora, which differs greatly from Bob’s:
- Pandora does help you discover new music — you may not like the music and you may not totally understand why some music is matched to the artist that you pick, but that’s why you have the ability to skip stuff you don’t like.
- I like that Pandora offers a free, ad-supported service. Had I not read Bob’s rant about it, I’m not sure when I would have gotten back around to checking Pandora out again. Most people are used to ad-supported services these days and don’t generally have problems with it.
- The ads on Pandora are relevant to music and don’t really bother me at all.
- If you’re looking for perfect content that is exactly what you want to hear, buy an iPod and author your own playlists. Pandora doesn’t do a perfect job, XM and Sirius don’t do a perfect job (and you can’t skip the stuff you don’t want to hear), and traditional radio does a worse job than XM and Sirius combined.