Pandora: It’s Like Satellite Radio, But Free

by Lindy on May 30, 2012

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How to replace Sirius with Pandora

I’ve mentioned before that I’m addicted to satellite radio.

Many times I’ve considered cancelling it, but in the end I’ve always decided to keep paying for it.


  1. Because I like good music.
  2. The radio stations in my town are obnoxious.
  3. It’s easy.

That last point is the biggest one. Even though there are many free (or lower cost) alternatives to satellite radio, they all require one thing that satellite doesn’t. They require effort.

It’s the convenience of  having my favorite music play with the turn of the ignition that I’m paying for. There’s no messing with iPods or iPhones, or cords or plugs, or tuning in, or getting to the right screen, or dealing with playlists. It’s just always there.

But recently, I sold my car. And with it, my satellite radio. My new car didn’t come with one, so I was forced to decide – once again – if satellite was worth it to me.

Since I don’t have a satellite radio in my car, I’d either have to pay for an after-market one to be installed, or I’d have to stream SiriusXM through my iPhone. We have an unlimited data plan, and my car has an auxillary jack for plugging into the car’s stereo system, so the latter option seemed to make the most sense.

However, streaming Sirius through the iPhone also requires the one little thing I don’t like: effort. There are cords to plug in and apps to open, and screens to navigate to – seriously, am I lazy or what?

With the convenience factor out of the picture, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying some of the free music options out there.

Enter Pandora.

Pandora is a free web-based music platform that allows you to create your own customized listening experience based on your favorite songs, artists, and genres.

I’m probably the last music fan on Earth to start using it, but I haven’t needed to until now because I’ve been paying for Sirius. Silly me.

I downloaded the Pandora app to my iPhone and started creating stations. After one week of tweaking them, I created my own custom listening experience that completely mimics my favorite station on Sirius radio. I’m officially a convert. Sirius shall get my money no more.

Here’s how you can create the ultimate Pandora profile to replace SiriusXM.

Step 1: Sign up for an account with Pandora, if you haven’t already.

Step 2: Start creating Pandora stations for your absolute favorite bands. These are the ones you don’t mind hearing over and over again.

Step 3: Track down a playlist for your favorite satellite station. Mine happens to be Sirius XMU. Their Download 15 playlist is a pretty good representative of their repertoire. If you can’t find a playlist anywhere, go to the station’s webpage and see what songs they’re talking about.

Step 4: Create Pandora stations for the specific songs from the playlist you just found. It helps if you use the songs that you like best.

Step 5: After you have 10 – 20 stations set up in Pandora, start listening in the QuickMix mode (or Shuffle mode, if you’re listening from your computer).

Step 6: Use the “Thumbs Up” and “Thumbs Down” to further customize your listening. This feature lets you talk to Pandora to say ‘no thanks’ to anything that sounds vaguely like country music, and ‘yes please, more of this!’ to Bon Iver.  From what I’ve read, you don’t have to do the thumbs up/thumbs down tagging for very long before Pandora gets the hint. I did it as I listened at work one day, and that seemed to do the trick.


Now, there are a few drawbacks to using the free Pandora vs. paying for Sirius satellite radio.

  • Commercials. But they’re minimal. You’ll hear one commercial every five songs or so, which isn’t so bad.
  • Sound quality. For the most part the sound is pretty good, but you’ll get the occasional song that sounds tinny.
  • No super-new releases. Those singles released to radio before the album is released – yeah, you won’t get those on Pandora.
  • It takes effort. That it does. But the fact that it’s free makes up for it, don’t you think?


Other options for your listening enjoyment if you no longer want to pay for satellite radio: Podcasts! Game of Thrones fans might like Boars, Gore and Swords. I’m a fan of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

For further reading: Five Places You Can Listen to Music for Free at Generation X Finance.

[POST EDIT: I know you just got to the bottom of this post about Pandora, but it has recently been brought to my attention in the comments that there is a new music app called Songza. I’ve tried it out, it blows the doors off of Pandora. The app is basically a large database of playlists, organized to suit your mood. My favorite playlists are Mainstream Indie and Sunshine Indie Pop. Check out Songza if you’re looking for something new!]  

Do you have any more tips for getting the most from Pandora or other free music platforms? Any favorite podcasts to share?

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  • I love Pandora! I listen to it all day at work.

  • I will have to look into this. Pandora sounds awesome; I need more music in my life :)

  • I love Pandora! And how you can skip songs that suck. It really does learn what you do and don’t like.

  • One of these days I’ll have to look into pandora. Lately I’ve just been listening to my own music and sometimes mix in some shoutcast radio. I’m set to go back to working a daytime job soon though. So I’m really going to need an option better than the ad-packed local radio stations during my drive to and from work.

  • I loved Pandora when I worked outside the home. Now, I don’t listen to music at all, but I could easily work to Pandora again. Why’d I ever stop?

  • I really liked pandora in grad school. These days I guess I do most of my listening on youtube or the radio (sometimes online radio though– performance today, and for a while I would listen to radio stations online from places I used to live).

  • Karen

    I like Spotify even better than Pandora !

    Check it out too !

  • I first thought of Pandora jewelry… hahaha whoops! that’s not frugal at all

  • nansuelee

    I gave Pandora a try over the weekend and I am hooked. I have never had sattelite so can’t compair but as I was scrapbooking all day on Saturday I cold listen to my favorites.

  • Your not alone! I haven’t used Pandora, but I have heard good things. I will have to try it out now. I am tired of listening to my same music over and over again.

  • jim

    I like Pandora.

    You can also upgrade to a paid membership with them for $36 a year and get rid of the commercials and get better quality audio stream.

  • I have a wayyyy better one for when you get tired of Pandora and Spotify…it’s Songza…use it on the computer, iPhone or iPad. Just go check the website, you can thank me later :)

  • I need to check this out. My husband has XM in his truck, and I love it when I get to borrow the truck and listen to my favourites! We have one local station I usually like, and if that is available, I just pop my iPod on – but Pandora would probably offer a lot of the songs I’m currently choosing not to download (budget buster!)

  • Lindy

    No, not ill. It’s sweet of you to follow up! Just getting my head on straight with kids being out of school and what not. New updates (and announcements) will be coming soon. :)

  • Krista

    Lindy, I’ve been reading your blog for some time now. It has been really inspiring to me as well as made me laugh on many occasions. You have a great writing style. I’m looking forward to more of what you have to share. (I do understand how kids+summer=crazy! At least with my 4 :)! )

  • Paul Avail

    Step 7. Get Spotify! I know this post is older and you’re most likely already using it but if not you definitely should! it of course covers what Pandora does as well as letting you create your own playlist of music that you like. Having a playlist of all songs that you like beats skipping randoms. plus unlimited number of playlists means you can have one for what ever mood that you’re in!

  • HelloDMo

    Ironically, I just came across this article on Feb 2, 2016.

    Exactly two days after Songza died.

  • Sandy S

    Just saw this in May 2017. Some things are timeless! I have Pandora but haven’t tried it…because I have Sirius free through my Satellite TV (Dish). I live way out in the country. BUT i want music outside streamed from my iPhone or ipad to a Bluetooth. And I don’t want JUST my own playlists. I too am lazy. Only thing I will miss are new songs that Sirius plays that introduce me to new artists. Since I am old and only listen to Watercolors. Anyway thank you for the posts – and the comment updates! I would have gone looking for Songza.

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