Why Pandora Plus is a better splurge than Apple Music

I adore music. I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift since I was ten, and I’ve been known to blast Alessia Cara, Ariana Grande, and/or Florida Georgia Line from my iPhone while doing algebra. But last year, when I hit a music rut and could no longer derive satisfaction from my ever-wonderful iTunes library, I turned to Pandora Plus and Apple Music for better variety. I tried each for a month, and came away with not only more favorite tunes, but a better idea of which company better deserves my hard-earned money. And you have the right to know, too.


Pandora and Apple Music are very different streaming services, and I understand that overall one is more frequently used than the other. Pandora is about 10 years older than Apple Music, and constantly gets a bad rap (pun not intended) for its subpar selection. On the other hand, Apple Music boasts over 40 million paid subscribers as of April 2018. However, the goal of a streaming service is music discovery, according to Pandora’s website, and Apple Music doesn’t exactly make this fundamental objective the easiest to accomplish. In other words, what if someone who is selective about genre and song themes wants to find his or her next favorite artist but is tired of all the typical mainstream bigwigs? Where does this person start? While it’s awesome that Apple Music has 45 million songs in its catalogue and gives users the ability to search for literally any song they could possibly want, it can be overwhelming for someone who loves variety and isn’t sure where to begin. Yes, there’s always Pandora Premium, but for readers who prefer the convenience of purchasing subscriptions from the iTunes Store, it costs $12.99 instead of $9.99 as it would if you paid directly through the website. Which, to put it simply, is unfair to consumers on a budget.

Apple Music has a wonderful proprietary radio show (Beats 1), but for those of us who like to personalize stations as opposed to playlists, Pandora again outperforms its younger, shinier cousin. Playlists are great, but they’re not endless. Whenever I listen to my personalized “Thumbprint Radio” station, I find that the algorithm is always shuffling my favorite songs and playing them on a constant loop without me having to put in any effort. “[Pandora is] always playing music that applies to my tastes,” noted senior Natalie Veltsistas. And speaking of Thumbprint Radio, Apple does not have a similar service; if you want to view all the songs you’ve “Loved,” you have to go through a process of adding it to your library and then letting iTunes create the “Smart Playlist” for you.


The other problem with playlists is their predictability. “Music is nicer when you don’t have ultimate control,” said social studies teacher Gregg Komitsky, adding that playlists can get redundant after a while. “I find myself going through different genres every year, and Pandora really does open that box,” Mr. Komitsky concluded.


With all that said, however, Apple Music is still an excellent service for Apple-loving students and families who aren’t easily overwhelmed by endless possibilities. “I like that I can access any music, and there’s such a big selection,” said freshman Chloe Counts. In order to encourage new subscribers who are hesitant to drop $10 every month on access to 45 million songs, Apple should follow in Pandora’s 13-year-old footsteps and create tiers in its subscription. Just as Pandora has Plus and Premium, Apple could develop a cheaper option (for $6.99, for example) that allows users to create stations from songs they already have in their library. Perhaps this more economical tier could also go without the Beats 1. I understand the steeper price tag because Beats 1 is operated 24/7 by real musicians, which can get costly for the company. But honestly, if you’re like me and only need a few classic stations to keep you happy, Beats 1 isn’t actually necessary, especially if you’ve already amassed a good number of songs in your iTunes library. A less expensive tier of Apple Music would be the ideal in-between for people who want a taste of the Apple Music experience without the price tag. If Pandora can do it, Apple can do it, too. But for now, Pandora is the company getting my cash.