How to Make a Music App Like Pandora

Anna Hmara
Anna Hmara
Senior Technical Writer

With more than 90 million active users, Pandora is now one of the most popular music streaming and internet radio platforms in world. It was founded in 2000 by Will Glaser, Jon Kraft, and Tim Westergren, and now the company generates total quarterly revenues of $447 million. The success story of Pandora is incredible. And in this article, we will figure out what exactly makes it special and what is needed to create a music streaming app like Pandora.

Table of contents

    Why is Pandora so Popular

    When Pandora was first released it was called Savage Beast Technologies. At the time, it was not the only website where you could listen to music. All similar sites were united by one feature - a lot of content without the ability for a user to search for specific songs. Instead of just copying the solutions presented on the market, the Pandora founders decided to do something unique and occupy their niche. And they really succeeded in this, as Pandora developed rapidly despite the fact that for the first five years they did not spend a single cent on marketing! 

    The idea was to create a radio station for users where they could listen to the music they like and avoid the music they didn’t. This is what became the key to the successful launch and rapid distribution of the app on the market. The algorithm used by the company is as follows:

    • The company has created about 400 parameters that are used to analyze each track.

    • The system analyzes each user's musical preferences based on the approving and disapproving ratings.

    • The Pandora algorithm finds similarities between compositions that the user likes and dislikes.

    Based on all the above steps, the system offers users music that best matches their preferences. This algorithm distinguishes Pandora from its competitors.

    So why was this streaming service successful? The company had an idea and confidently moved towards its implementation. They did everything they could to capture the market and firmly occupy their niche.

    “Don't be shy about believing in your ideas - even if folks around you think you're crazy.”

    -Tim Westergren, Co-founder of Pandora Radio

    The Main Competitors of Pandora

    The music streaming and Internet radio industry attracts millions of new users each year. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are many other companies providing offline/online access to audio & video content. Top 5 music apps like Pandora are:

    #1 Spotify

    Spotify is an international media services provider that was launched on October 7, 2008 in Sweden. The company made a revolution and saved the music industry from the possible ruin it was facing due to Internet piracy. Founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon were inspired by the Napster experience and quickly figured out a way to make the Internet platform legal. The idea was that users could listen to music for free, but occasionally they came across ads that they could turn off for an extra cost. This revenue was enough to recoup the rental rights and provide copyright holders with income. Initially, the service was available only in some countries of Western Europe, but now Spotify covers 78 countries and has more than 286 million users. The company's value is estimated at more than $34 billion.

    Due to licensing constraints, Pandora is only available in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. So there is still have an opportunity to occupy a similar niche in other countries. 


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    #2 Apple Music

    This music and video streaming service was developed by Apple and launched on June 30, 2015 in over 100 countries worldwide. Currently, it provides more than 60 million songs and radio stations. One of the features of Apple Music is the Content section. Famous artists can upload their photos, videos, recordings of performances, and even not yet released song blanks. This strengthens the connection between listeners and artists. In addition, Apple Music allows you to save music to your device to listen to offline. The service also has a Friends Mix function, showing the Top 25 songs of friends. Initially, the service was available only for Apple devices, but in 2016 it was released for Android.

    #3 Amazon Music

    Another one of Pandora's strong competitors is Amazon Music (previously Amazon MP3). Amazon Music has more than 55 million listeners. It came live on September 25, 2007. It's available for macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, FireOS, etc. Amazon Music also has web version. Using the application, you can create your own playlists with your favorite songs or use those created by Amazon experts for any type of mood or activity. Amazon Music offers 2 main plans: Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music. The first one gives you unlimited access to all songs in the database just for $9.99/month. For $7.99/month, the Prime Music  plan lets you listen to a total of 2 million tracks.

    #4 Google Play

    This service provides online storage for audio and access to streaming music and podcasts. Google Play Music was released on November 16, 2011. The store has over 40 million songs, is available in 64 countries, and allows users to upload their own tracks. Thanks to cloud storage, users can save 50,000 songs. It also provides access to YouTube Music Premium members.

    #5 TIDAL

    This is a subscription-based music, podcast, and video streaming service where you can find HD music and lossless audio. The service was launched in 2014 in Norway and is now available in 52 counties. Its database contains about 60 million tracks and 240,000 music videos. 

    What to Consider When Creating a Music Service Like Pandora

    The success of any enterprise requires a thoughtful action plan. If you want to create a music streaming app like Pandora, here are the basic steps you should follow:


    The first thing you should do is decide in which country or countries your service will be available. Due to internal restrictions and differences in laws, even the largest streaming services do not broadcast worldwide. The choice of the region for activity is important, as it greatly influences the development of the brand in the future. For example, the more similar services that are active in the desired location, the more difficult it will be for you to enter the market.


    In order to create a streaming service, you must have permission, namely a license. Otherwise, you will violate copyright laws. About 50% of Pandora's expenses cover royalties for the right to broadcast music. Examine the requirements of the country in which you want to launch an app and the cost of the license. Depending on the conditions, you may even have to change the region.

    UX/UI Design

    A beautiful and user-friendly interface is of great importance! The web and mobile version should be convenient and understandable for any user. In any case, you will need the help of a professional who will think over and create high-quality layouts. According to a Stanford University survey, 75% of users judge a web site based on its design. Poor templates will hurt even an app with the most useful functions.


    Another point to think about when creating a music website like Pandora is where you will broadcast music from and how you will store it. There are many technologies for transferring (WEBRTC, RTMP, etc.) and storing data (for example, cloud services) depending on the goals of the project. But these are important aspects that will significantly affect the productivity of the app.

    Way of Monetization

    Even with a free application, there are options for making a profit. Also, the method of monetization can vary depending on the platform on which the application will run. In any case, you should think through all the strategies and choose the best one. For example, access to music may be free, but you make money on advertising (that's what Pandora does). Or you can sell accounts without ads (like Amazon).

    Algorithm of recommendations

    A big part of Pandora's popularity lies in its algorithm. This is something that you need to think over well - the mechanism by which users will find music that best reflects their preferences. There are two main approaches.

    • Collaborative filtering mode. It uses the history of all users to identify the most popular songs and albums.

    • Content-oriented algorithm. It offers songs similar to those that a particular user liked.

    Features that Must be Implemented in a Music App like Pandora

    Having made the ultimate decision regarding application development, you should also indicate the basic functionality. The technical specification of your project should contain a list of technologies that the application will execute. 

    1. Check-in. An essential function is how users will register in the system. Most people do not like a long sign up process, and faced with this will leave the application forever. Your app must be easily accessible. Also, decide whether to register via phone, email, or social networks.

    2. Social networks integration. Make it possible to share your app in social networks to increase traffic. It’s one of the ways to grow a community.

    3. Playlists. This is a crucial functionality. Without it, it is impossible to build a Pandora app clone.

    4. Search engine. Users should be able to search for songs by title, artist, album, and genre. Extra filters will also create more comfort when working with the application. A quick search engine is an important part of the service.

    5. Data storage. Where are you going to store the content? Amazon S3, SoundCloud, Google Cloud Storage, and Azure provide good services.

    6. Server. Your app must have a solid backend that supports streaming. The most powerful tools are Nginx and AWS.

    7. Streaming Service. Choose what type of streaming service is more suitable in your case: music library, cloud storage, or radio stations.

    8. Likes/dislikes. This is an important tool to help identify user preferences.

    9. Platform. Lots of people will use your app on their smartphones. Don't limit your product with a web version only. Think about creating mobile apps for iOS and Android.

    Best Development Strategy for a Radio App

    There are a few more topics that you should consider before you start building an app. How can you make your service interesting to more users? What needs to be done to maintain its popularity? The answers to these questions can also affect the functionality of the system. So here are some important steps you must go through when building a music app similar to Pandora.

    • Define your niche. Make sure that the niche you are applying for has either a huge number of users, or it is still unknown and you will become a pioneer in this area. The niche must have user demand. If it is not interesting to anyone, your application will fail.

    • Do market research. Study your potential users, their demographic features, culture, geolocation, etc. These peculiarities should also be reflected in the design for the convenience of customers. Consider competitors, paying attention to their shortcomings. This data should be the basis for the development of your service in order to create a better product.

    • How are you going to generate traffic to your service? A powerful tool that will help you is social networks. The whole world is now using Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. These are the platforms where you can place advertising to attract customers.

    How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Radio App Like Pandora?

    The final price depends on the range of tasks and technologies that need to be implemented. Also, if you want to have a mobile application, the cost will be higher. In order to voice the exact amount, the team of developers must evaluate the technical specifications and determine the number of hours needed to complete all tasks. The average hourly rate of a good developer in Eastern Europe is $50 per hour. And this is one of the best options to guarantee high-quality implementation. In Western Europe, you will be charged about $90/hour. In North America you will have to pay at least $100 per hour.   

    There are also many countries in which developers offer services starting from $5 per hour. But do not be fooled by such conditions. Low price can indicate poor knowledge and insufficient experience of a software engineer. If the project has to be redone because of poor quality, it will cost you much more in the long run. Good developers don't charge you low prices because they are too much in demand because of their strong work and expert knowledge.

    Trust Professional Developers

    The music streaming industry is a great field for building a successful business since the market is huge and existing giants cannot reach the entire volume of users. High-quality product development is the key to the success of your service. 

    If you are looking for experienced specialists to create the Pandora app clone, KeyUA is what you need. Our team has been creating music streaming software and radio stations for more than 6 years. Our seasoned pros can provide top-notch implementation of any idea.

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