Pandora, where did it all go wrong?

The company that prides itself on knowing what you want to listen to, stopped listening themselves.

I was once a huge Pandora fan. I enjoyed the mixture of music it would throw at me, easing me into new artists and different types of music I never knew existed.  For 2 years I paid to be a premium user.  This didn’t actually get me that much, more skips per hour – I was mainly paying to be not sold too every 3rd song.

Pandora is like a dumb personal radio station, where you thumb up or down tracks and their algorithm will choose the next one accordingly. All good.  I believed in the company and thought it such a great service I bought some P stock.

Then new music services came along that started to challenge Pandora’s dominance.  Spotify, Amazon Prime Music and of course the almighty YouTube ever lurking in the background.  I started to be seduced away.  I found my diet of new music elsewhere with mostly Amazon and Google Play.  While this was all happening, their shares started to fall in value, I sold them while there was still a little profit to be made.

Where did it go wrong?

I think I know, and given my latest exchange with their customer service, confirms my worse fears. The company that prides itself on knowing what you want to listen to, stopped listening themselves.

Pandora has let it’s features run stale. There has been no innovation or major feature improvement since I started tuning in over 4 years ago. For a company competing in the fast paced Internet race this is a disastrous move.

Let me give you an example of where they are failing.  Pandora streams tracks to you.  You are usually listening, like with a traditional FM radio, far away from the device making the noise.  You hear something you like, thinking you want maybe more later.  However Pandora doesn’t store the history of tracks you have just listened to.  You can thumb up a track and you can see those, but you can’t browse through what you have just heard.

Major feature oversight. I am not asking to be able to play the song on demand again.  No, just to know what it was that got my ear buds all a tingle a few songs ago, or what was that song I listened to yesterday.  Most FM radio stations do this.

I asked Pandora about this.

Danielle | Pandora
AUG 22, 2016  |  09:17AM PDT

Hi Alan,

Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts with us.

We don’t actually save the playlists from your listening sessions, as this would use a lot of memory. However, in one listening session, you can scroll back through the currently playing station to find out what played previously. Click on the arrow to the right of the station list to scroll back.

If you would like to keep an on-going list of the songs that you really enjoy, I would recommend that you “like” the truly outstanding ones.

Please note that you can like a track *without* giving it a thumbs up. To do so, click on the name of the track, then click on “Like this track.”

Likes, along with your previously Bookmarked songs, will automatically show under My Profile on the left side.

Hope this helps. Thanks for listening!

Too much memory?  Excuse me? What sort of excuse is that?  Data has never been so cheap to store.  I replied back to Danielle, noting that I wasn’t asking for too much and was very happy to give them money if they would provide a basic service, the base feature that all other online music providers are providing.

Danielle | Pandora
AUG 22, 2016  |  01:34PM PDT
Sorry to hear you feel that way. I’ve noted your thoughts about how our service works. In the end, it sounds like Pandora isn’t quite what you’re looking for.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can help out with. Thanks for writing in.

Danielle | Pandora
Listener Advocate
PANDORA® internet radio

This reply left me feeling empty and disappointed. Pandora could provide this very basic history service for premium only users for example – if data storage is really a big concern.

YouTube Music is eating them for lunch. I don’t use Pandora anymore – not even the free ad-laden service.  YouTube Music gives me new music, the ability to seed a channel, streams either music or even the video to me, and guess what?  Yes, they remember every track they sent me, so I can browse back through and can even play that track again on demand.   I will also add that YouTube Music will even guesstimate what I will listen to, and save the next 50 songs it will play offline so I don’t eat up my data plan allowance.

I pay for this, $9.99 per month. I don’t need too, their free version gets me most of all the features.  Point is, if a service provides its customers what they want, then it is worth paying for.

These are the sort of features Pandora should have been innovating with.

I wanted to give Pandora money to provide me with a service I would feel good about paying for.  But they failed to deliver. They failed to innovate and listen to the wants and desires of their listening paying customers.

Could have been so good.

Author: Alan Williamson

CTO | Partner | Investor | Java Champion | Author | Podcaster | Speaker | Architect

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