What are Pandora Modes? Here's how to use the music streaming app's customized listening stations
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  • Post published:04/04/2021
  • Post last modified:04/04/2021
  • Pandora Modes lets users customize their listening experience by exploring different versions of their channels, such as an artist’s latest tracks or their lesser-known songs.  
  • Pandora’s Modes are driven by the Music Genome Project, an algorithm that utilizes user rating data to tailor listeners’ music stations. 
  • Pandora Modes are available on the Pandora website, mobile app, and the Sonos app, but their availability varies by station.
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Launched in 2000, Pandora is a music streaming platform that serves its tens of millions of active monthly users through its unique Music Genome Project. 

Created by Will Glaser and Tim Westergren in 1999, the project digitally identifies 450 attributes of a song and organizes them using a mathematical algorithm. Frequently described as an effort to “capture the essence of music,” the Genome Project treats sound like DNA, extracting the “genes” of a song and rebuilding it into a new “strand” more attuned to your interests. 

These highly customized user-driven stations have helped set Pandora apart from its competitors and revolutionized how we discover new music. And over a decade after its launch, Pandora is still finding ways to innovate this personalized radio experience through this project. 

Most recently, that’s taken the form of Pandora Modes. Launched in March 2019, the feature allows free and premium users of all tiers to explore the invisible web of music surrounding your Pandora station selections. 

What is Pandora Modes 

To alleviate the pressure of finding “good” music or figuring out what you really “like,” Pandora Modes does the work for you by revealing new layers of the platform’s algorithm. Through them, users are offered both a more conscious and subconscious interactive experience — instead of listening to a set number of songs selected by someone else’s taste. 

Modes harness the power of Pandora’s Genome Project, starting with “My Station.” This auto-generated playlist with an algorithmic tracklist is derived from your “Thumbs Up” reactions to tracks, albums, and stations. 

Pandora’s Modes help you tailor the music app’s algorithm to your tastes even more.
Abbey White/Business Insider

Each time you tap the thumbs up icon while a song plays, you let Pandora’s algorithm know you like it. That liked song’s “musical DNA” is then used to add and refine the station’s signature sound. This affects not just the inclusion of music you most certainly like, but songs you may also potentially like or not like based on your listening habits. 

Pandora’s other Modes build on this by more deeply diving into those choices. Your likes are contrasted against other Pandora users or used to help link you to the lesser-known parts of an artist’s catalog. This library of eight customized station styles is available for select stations you listen to.

What are the listening Modes on Pandora 

The music streaming app initially rolled out six different modes for users’ self-made stations. That meant anything that wasn’t curated by the app or had specific limitations set — think Thumbprint Radio or Today’s Hits — would feature Mode options. 

My Station: This is the default listening mode and provides the most classic Pandora music curation approach. 

Crowd Faves: This mode deprioritizes your “likes” in favor of playing the most thumbed-up tracks on a station as determined by all Pandora listeners. 

Discovery: This mode is geared towards helping you find artists and tracks that wouldn’t usually play on that station.

Deep Cuts: This mode plays less popular tracks by artists or genres that usually play on your station.

Newly Released: The newest songs by artists who help make up the playlist of your station.

Artist Only: This mode strictly plays tracks by the artist you started your station with — or, if you “thumbed up” other artists on the station, them as well. 

While stations like Thumbprint still have no Modes, Pandora has added newer modes for selective stations like Today’s Hits since the initial rollout. Modes currently available on these station types include Hottest Hits and Most Thumbed Up. 

Certain stations have exclusive modes.
Abbey White/Business Insider

When you enable Hottest Hits on Today’s Hits, the station will focus on serving up songs picked by Pandora Pop. The Most Thumbed Up mode is exactly what it sounds like, delivering tracks based on Pandora Pop’s most thumbed up tracks in aggregate. 

How to enable Pandora Modes 

Pandora’s new feature is a helpful way for users to broaden their music library and discover new music from their favorite artists. You can enable any Pandora Mode during or after your listening session ends. 

Here’s how to access your modes on the desktop site and Pandora app. 

How to find and enable a Pandora Mode on a mobile device

1. Open the Pandora app, select a station, and ensure you’re on the default “My Station” mode. 

2. Tap the “My Station” button at the top of the screen for the dropdown menu.

If you’ve never used Modes, it will prompt you to “Tap for Modes.”
Ennica Jacob/Business Insider

3. Choose any of the five other modes from the dropdown. 

A list of available modes will appear on the bottom of the app screen.
Ennica Jacob/Business Insider

4. Once a mode has been selected, wait for the station to update and begin playing a new track.   

When your station switches modes, it will switch songs — and notify you at the top of the app.
Ennica Jacob/Business Insider

How to find and enable a Pandora Mode on desktop

1. Log in to the desktop site player. 

2. With the player up, locate the “My Station” link to the right of the track art.  

On the web app, Modes are visible by default.
Ennica Jacob/Business Insider

3. Beneath it, you can find each mode listed. Click on one of the five other available modes to enable it. 

Select a Mode from the list on the right side of the web player.
Ennica Jacob/Business Insider

4. When you want to return to the classic Pandora experience, click on “My Station.”

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

  • How to add stations to your Pandora account, and listen to music based on your favorite artists or songs

  • How to delete stations on Pandora using your computer or mobile device

  • How to make a playlist on Pandora using your computer or mobile device

  • How to download music from Pandora with a Pandora Premium subscription

  • ‘Does Pandora have podcasts?’: How to listen to podcasts on Pandora or Pandora Plus or Premium

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