Okay, first of all this is NOT a scientific comparison. Your results may vary. I have been listening back and forth between Pandora, Last.fm and Grooveshark – so those are the ones I am going to discuss. If you know of other ones (and there are plenty) go ahead and leave a comment and I will check them out in the future.
I will start with the one I have been using the longest, Last.FM – the reason I originally started using it was because of the “audioscrobbling” capability. That is, the ability to track all your plays on your iPod and keep charts and statistics about your real listening habits. This is a habit I got into back in college. I had a cassette collection of a couple hundred and a chart that listed all of them. Each time I listened to one, I put a tally on the chart. I know, what a dork! I found it very interesting to learn that the albums that came to mind first when asked who I liked were often not the most listened.
The reason that Last.FM is so great for my use is that every time you listen to a song on your computer or iPod, it is tracked. This collection becomes your “library.” There is a station automatically created from your library and it contains just songs you actually have chosen to hear in the past. If I want to hear a station consisting of songs I am 100% sure I like – this is the way to go. Sure, there are other stations (individual artists and stations created by other users) you can give a listen if you want to venture out, but I don’t use Last.FM that way. Their library is very extensive and the ability to track is top notch. RATINGS: Library 8, Selection 10, Tracking 10.
Pandora is one that I tried back in the early days before finding it a bit too restrictive. The selection wasn’t all that good and the ability to stay on task was very weak. It seemed that no matter what you put in, Pandora went off on some tangent with artists that “sound like” the ones you like. Fast forward five or six years and Pandora is greatly improved. The ability to find similar tracks is much better albeit still a bit wacky at times. Pandoro now also syncs up with the audioscrobbler software to add to your Last.FM statistics – that was the biggest improvement for the stat freaks like me. The library is even better than Last.FM, but it does lead to what I suspect is Pandora sliding tracks into my library because they are getting paid by someone. Seriously, I would never add Lady freakin’ Gaga to my playlist, but she has shown up twice even after I clicked that I “Don’t Like.” RATINGS: Library 10, Selection 6, Tracking 10.
Grooveshark is the one I have the least experience with. It has a great library and rather than adding an artist or a genre, you can add individual tracks. It is the ultimate in control when it comes to your station playlist. The big problem for me is that it doesn’t track your listens. There are a couple of apps that have been created to attempt scrobbling, but nothing is bulletproof just yet. The newest one appears to be a good design, but the developer has shut down admitting new users until he gets “new servers.” RATINGS: Library 10, Selection 10, Tracking 1.
Like I said, I am sure there are dozens of others out there, and do not hesitate to inform me of others. Just make sure they can tie in with last.fm’s audioscrobbling software.
Overall, I will listen to Pandora as much as Last.FM because while it has a bunch of misses in the suggestions, it does bring up a lot of tracks that I just don’t own or haven’t thought to add to my playlist at last.fm. Last.FM rates a little higher just because it is truer to my actual tastes, but sometimes you just want to venture out a bit. Your mileage may vary.
What are your thoughts?