Songza vs. Pandora: My Quest for Lazy Listening

9 May

When I work in public – preferable to a stuffy office – I like to suck the energy from everyone in the room and use it for myself. Sometimes, though, these people can be annoying and I would rather not hear them. And since it would be rude to ask everyone to stop talking, I need another way to block them out.

Enter the white earbuds that connect to my iPhone, the magical device that controls my mood more than any fellow human. (A sad dilemma better suited for a Tumblr post.) Although my library is chock full of entertaining podcasts and four- or five-star songs, even a good shuffle often isn’t enough to lift my spirits. Sometimes I need the unpredictability of shuffle without the familiarity of my playlist.

In college, I overcame this hurdle with a then-little-known website called Pandora. (You hadn’t heard of it yet, and there definitely wasn’t an app for your little flip phone.) I could search for an “artist, track or composer” and instantly create a new “station.” Brief commercials only intervened every three songs or so, and I discovered more new tunes than I cared to count. I’d go straight from Pandora to a torrent site in search of the track that just made my day. It was a healthy relationship.

Fast forward six or seven years, and there’s an alternative to my faithful Pandora. It’s called Songza, and though I just started using it last month, I can’t remember how I discovered it. Now that we’re together, though, I also can’t remember the last time I launched Pandora on my iPhone. (In a measure of loyalty, it still remains on my home screen while Songza has clawed its way from the top of the third page to the final slot on the second.)

There are a number of reasons I have made the switch, not the least of which is some guy named Elias Roman and whoever runs the @Songza Twitter account, though it may be the same person. I tweeted a link about the new app, without mentioning Elias’s or Songza’s Twitter account, and somehow they both found and favorited it. That was just the beginning of what was obviously a promotion-driven, but nonetheless flattering interaction with the two accounts.

It takes more than a few favorites and replies to win me over, though. I need more practical reasons, and the Songza app provides them. First and foremost, there are no audio ads, only some relatively unobtrusive banners. And as far as I can tell, there’s no limit to how many songs you can skip. (UPDATE: There is actually a six-song skip limit for each hour, I just never reached it.)  On Pandora, not only are there ads, but there’s a limit to the number of “thumbs downs” you can give within a given period of time. I often listened to an entire Pandora song I thought was OK, but not great, just so I didn’t “waste” one of my thumbs downs. God forbid a less-than-OK song came down the pipeline later and I wasn’t able to skip it. (Because does anyone really need to hear “Pumped Up Kicks” one more time?)

It’s the Songza playlists, though, that I find most attractive. 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, just like Pandora, simply conduct a search.


Why is this an advantage over the primarily search-driven playlist creation on Pandora? Because I don’t have a lot of time to think of what artist, track or composer I like most, and whether I want to make a playlist based on their work. I would much rather have a theme-based list created for me, like on Songza.

I recommend trying Songza if you haven’t already. If you don’t like it and want to switch back, Pandora isn’t going anywhere. (No, I don’t use Spotify or Rdio.)

Have you tried Songza? What’s your favorite music streaming service?


One Response to “Songza vs. Pandora: My Quest for Lazy Listening”

  1. numerounoh May 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    I should also mention, I like how you can retroactively rate songs, long after they played, with the mobile version of Songza, but not Pandora. You can also see the artist, song and album name for each song after it’s finished playing, which, again, you can’t do on Pandora.

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