Last.fm and Pandora are the two leading music streaming services in the world today. They have comparable traffic volumes and song selections.
Last.fm vs Pandora: Determining what songs to play
While both Last.fm and Pandora aim to play songs that the service "predicts" the user will like, the algorithm they use to make that prediction is different. In both services, users provide feedback on the songs that play and the service remembers this feedback and plays songs based on it.
Last.fm chooses songs based on crowdsourcing and the site's community features (they call it scrobbling). This means that if a user has indicated certain preferences, song selection is based on what other users who have similar preferences have liked. This can be a good way to discover new music even though Last.fm does not necessarily "understand" the intrinsic attributes of the songs. In January 2014, Last.fm teamed up with Spotify to give users the ability to play any song from Spotify's catalogue while browsing artist, album, or song pages on Last.fm.
Pandora utilizes a different method to find music that the user will like. Pandora's service understands the different attributes of all songs (like vocal harmony, rhythmic patterns, electric rock instrumentation). Based on a user's stated preferences, the service plays songs that have similar musical qualities to the songs the user likes. This is a different method to discover new music from Last.fm's but also has its advantages and works well.
Registration and Social Networking in Last.fm vs Pandora
Registration is optional at Pandora and the social networking features are not core to the functioning of the service.
With Last.fm, registration is not required, but enables community recommendations to drive the functioning of the website using tags and preferences. The media player page is set up like YouTube - you can scroll down and leave a “shout” (comment) about the track as well as read what others are saying. Last.fm also incorporates events (like upcoming concerts) into the play page. Pandora does not offer this kind of service.
Pandora vs Last.fm - Music Players
Both Pandora and Last.fm stream music directly from the website in-browser, but Last.fm also provides a desktop client that can be downloaded to scrobble song plays from Windows Media Player, iTunes, and iPods, as well as stream music via Airplay at a higher bitrate than the in-browser player.
Using Pandora and Last.fm on the iPhone
In December 2008, Mashable wrote that Pandora had better response times on the iPhone than Last.fm.
Last.fm vs Pandora Subscription
Pandora has two subscription plans: a free subscription supported by advertisements and a fee-based subscription without ads that comes with other minor restrictions. The monthly fee for an ad-free Pandora subscription is $5.
Last.fm also offers subscription services. , costing £1.50, €2.50, $3 or ¥350 per month. Some of the extra features that paid users receive are:
- More radio options (custom user playlists and loved tracks radio)
- The ability to view recent visitors to one's own profile page
- Beta testing at beta.last.fm
- Priority on Last.fm server