Yesterday, Spotify introduced a simplified, radio-only version of its app for U.S. users called Spotify Stations. And somewhere, Pandora Radio executives probably let out a beleaguered groan.
Stations essentially does what Pandora does, minus the content clutter of Spotify’s main app. Instead of scrolling through an endless list of artists, albums, podcasts, AI-curated recommendations, and playlists, it zeroes in on Spotify’s radio feature. And in so doing, kills any real incentive I have for using Pandora in the first place.
I was mildly skeptical when I downloaded Stations—did I really need two Spotify apps?—but after using it for a few hours, I can see the appeal. The colors are bright, you can easily favorite songs that get added to a personalized playlist, as well as browse through Spotify’s myriad of genre and mood playlists. Anecdotally, I’ve become dead tired of having to curate my own Spotify playlists and because I’m a generous soul who let my ex mooch off my premium Spotify account for years, Discover Weekly and other AI options have always been borked. (How am I still getting hair metal after all this time?) All this led me to consider using Pandora to discover new artists, but I was hesitant because who wants to sign up for yet another service?
That’s why spinning off Stations into a separate app is a savvy move. I discovered three new artists while getting ready to commute based on my Mitski station (sad indie rock girls for the win), and plan to try out its workout station on my next run. Truthfully, I knew that “Stations” was an option, but I’d never given it a fair shot before because it didn’t stand out within Spotify’s crowded app. Stations’ design is clean and clear.
It’s not too far off the mark to assume Spotify is gunning for Pandora’s user base. Internet radio is how Pandora’s made its bread and butter since launching in 2000—but free Spotify offers more options than free Pandora. This would be an easy way to hook Pandora users and lure them away with Spotify’s better social options (did you know you can scan songs for sharing??), and on-demand music streaming capabilities via its web player and desktop app. It doesn’t help that Pandora’s user growth isn’t in the best shape. The service had about 72.3 million active users in Q1 2018, and that number further declined in Q1 2019 to 66 million—that’s an 8.7 percent drop year-over-year. Meanwhile, Spotify announced in Q1 that it had hit 200 million monthly active users. Womp womp.
But the most important thing is the music. If you’re tired of all the visual hubbub and just don’t want to think about what to listen to, Stations works.