Pandora, Rdio, Spotify or MOG?

Over the past couple of months I’ve been on the hunt for a music subscription service worthy of my $5/month.

With the release of Spotify in the US, I’ve now used Pandora, Rdio, MOG and Spotify.

Here are my thoughts about each.



  • Custom stations that actually play similar music.
  • Terrific genre stations.


  • Limited song selection (800,000).
  • Can’t play songs on-demand.

I love Pandora because it chooses what I listen to and it does a ridiculously great job at it. I can create a new Pandora station with a few artists I’m in the mood for and be confident the resulting station is going to be exactly what I want. And if not, I can thumbs up/down songs to tweak the results.

The only problem I have with Pandora is it’s limited song selection (800,000). After awhile songs begin to be repeated.

Relative to others music fans, I don’t have a wide range of music I listen to so this becomes a problem.

Enter the other services: Rdio, Spotify and MOG…



  • Great design, user experience.
  • Solid Mac desktop app.
  • 9 million tracks.
  • Great for finding new music/connecting with other music fans.


  • Custom stations not very good at picking related music (at least compared to Pandora).

I’m going to start with Rdio because it’s approach is fundamentally different than MOG/Spotify in two ways: social and discovery.

Rdio describes themselves as a “social music service.” Rdio is built on top of a social network. You can follow users and stalk their listening habits.

This feature goes hand-in-hand with Rdio being a music discovery service as well. Rdio continually encourages you to listen to music as evidence of the main page being what they call “Heavy Rotation.” It shows you what you’ve been listening to the most and lets you see what others are listening to in your network (or site wide). It will also recommend other artists based on what you’ve listened to.

One thing that stands out about Rdio is the design. It’s pretty on the eyes, easy to use and their Mac desktop app is great.

It does not have any pre-built stations like Pandora, but you can create a custom station based on a specific artist, what’s in your Heavy Rotation or what’s saved in your collection (think of it as your favorites). My experiences with these custom stations were lack-luster. I wasn’t pleased with the selection (and there’s no way to influence the station) so I rarely used that feature.



  • 11 million tracks.
  • More control over custom stations (but feature still not usable overall).


  • Horrible site design/layout. Using site is like having a root canal.
  • No native desktop app (have to use browser-based player).

What was impressive about MOG was it’s catalog of 11 million songs (until Spotify released in the US). Unfortunately, that’s about it.

The site is poorly designed and a pain to interact with.

One feature MOG does have, however, over Rdio/Spotify is the ability to create custom stations and influence the station by rating songs or using a slider which gradually goes from playing just songs from the artist to slowly introducing other similar artists. But like Rdio, it’s recommendations engine was sub-par.

Finding new music through MOG is done through perusing the Editor Picks or browsing through playlists that have been created. So music discovery is not nearly as strong as it is in Rdio.



  • 15 million tracks.
  • Good Mac desktop app.
  • Integrates well with existing music library.


  • No web-based player.
  • Virtually non-existent music recommendations.
  • No ability to play custom stations.

Where Rdio is on one extreme of social music and music discovery, Spotify is on the opposite. There’s no social and no music discovery. If you use Spotify, you pretty much have to know what you want to listen to.

One unique feature Spotify does have is their desktop client. It’s designed to replace iTunes. It’ll scan/add your current music library to the app and let you sync your iPhone/iPod using it.

So which is best?

After using them all, I really miss Pandora and how good it’s music recommendation engine was. It fit my music-listening habits well. I just want to listen to music that sounds like ______, but I don’t want to explicitly choose everything I want to listen to.

But, alas, Pandora’s music catalog kills it, so I have to choose one of the other three.

MOG is definitely out of the picture because of it’s horrible site, but rumor has it they’re rolling out a new design soon. Perhaps I’ll take another look when that happens.

Lately, I’ve been using Rdio, but will most likely switch to Spotify (because of it’s larger music catalog). If I cared about the social aspects or discovering new music, then Rdio is the clear winner.

But for my needs, I just want to listen to music. So in my head, the more music I have access to, the better. Rdio doesn’t provide anything I have to have.

In an ideal world, a music service would exist with the music recommendation engine of Pandora, the song selection of Spotify and the design of Rdio. ;)

What are your thoughts? Which service do you prefer and why?

14 replies on “Pandora, Rdio, Spotify or MOG?”

Have you tried Slacker? I have no idea how large their library is, but I’m impressed with their custom station creation and their music selection AI.

They also recently released Slacker Premium Radio which adds the ability to play specific songs.

yeah, i’ve heard of slacker. didn’t check them out cause i wasn’t overly impressed with their UI.

but with my various frustrations with each of the music streaming services i’ve tried, i may give it a whirl. particularly because you recommended their AI.

on last check, they had about 8 million songs (which is respectable).

as i’ve used spotify more the past few days, i am super frustrated at how their play queue works. (read here).

that coupled with practically zero music discovery options makes me change my stance. i will probably stick with rdio and use spotify (since they have a free plan) for the songs that rdio doesn’t have.

If it helps, David uses ’em too :)

Also, I dunno if any other music services offer this, but Slacker also has a feature in their iPhone app that let’s you cache some stations so that you can listen when you don’t have an internet connection (such as on an airplane). I thought that was pretty cool

I subscribe to Rhapsody. I can download all their music to my harddrive and then convert it to MP3 with TuneCab. I have hundreds of CDs now and can get the latest music when it is released to the public. I’ve been a member for three years now. Love it.

Awesome, glad Rhapsody is working out for you! I used to subscribe. Can’t remember why I stopped, but maybe should check them out again. ;)

So. Together with your old Napster library? That is a bit outside the Rhapsody licensing.
Nice to have legal options now.

Heh. Yeah, I’m pretty sure stripping the DRM from Rhapsody downloaded files is outside the terms of use. ;)

I just checked into Rhapsody.

They don’t have a Mac app and their web interface is lacking. So that makes it a pass for me.

Hi there, full disclosure: I work for MOG. Have you tried the new HTML5 beta player? The UI is really sleek, blazingly fast and intuitive. Facebook Connect allows you to see personalized recommendations based on you and your friends’ likes. And “Similar artists” links are great for discovery. Check out the rundown here:

Genre-based radio stations and full playlist control are getting built in soon!

Hiya Zoe, thanks for droppin’ in! Yeah, I was pretty excited to hear about the new HTML5 player. Will definitely check it out when it comes out of beta.

Spotify is a pretty big win for me. I have a fairly substantial iTunes collection and lots of “crafted” playlists already. So the fact that it pulls all of that in automatically is great – and Bonus! I can go listen to new/random/odd stuff that I don’t own in the SAME place – too good to be true!

If I’m not feeling a need for a particular artist/song, then I can hop over to Pandora and listen there for a bit. Just guessing, but I don’t think I’ll hit the 20h/month limit on Spotify (have never hit 40/h on Pandora). If I do, there’s always Grooveshark :)

Spotify is definitely the hands down winner if you want to integrate a music subscription with an existing music collection. Since I don’t have a large existing collection, it’s not really that important to me. Honestly, I prefer the features/functionality of the Rdio app over the Spotify one. But again, the larger catalog is what’s making me lean towards Spotify.

Also, with Spotify Free, it’s 20h/month for the first six months. Then the limit drops to 10h (just an FYI).

6 months is an eternity. We’ll probably have inner-ear implants that scan our brains and match music to our mood by then. :)

My own, which happens to be Google Music at the moment… I can get the benefits of Pandora like “random” stations with their Mix feature but still get to listen to all the songs I like/have bought.

Yah, I’m sure Google Music would be great if you have an existing music collection. But I’ve shifted my music consumption over the years away from owning to renting (via music subscriptions). So nowadays I hardly ever buy music.

Just like I don’t like watching movies over and over, I don’t typically like listening to the same music over and over.

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