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.
- Because I like good music.
- The radio stations in my town are obnoxious.
- 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.
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?