How to Develop a Radio App Like Pandora

Published: December 20, 2019

15 min read

Last updated: May 2, 2022

The music market continues to show exponential growth from year to year. Moreover, modern users often expect far more advanced and diverse functionality than just music streaming. For example, they may want your application to create personalized playlists that match their preferences or use music to create own content like in TikTok.

According to RIAA, the U.S. recorded music market continues to follow the trends of previous years:

  • Total revenues grew up to $5.4 billion in the first half of 2019, which is an 18% growth compared to 2018.
  • Streaming services made up 80% of the industry revenues.
  • Paid subscriptions accounted for 62% of the overall industry revenue.

In this article, we’ll focus on tips and tricks to create a radio app like Pandora. But first, let’s figure out why this app is so special.

👨‍🎤 What’s the Story behind Pandora?

Pandora’s story started with a so-called Genome Project in 1999. Will Glaser and Tim Westergren wanted to create a B2B tech company that would focus on issues of music discovery. For that purpose, they had gathered a team of musicological experts and developed their own algorithm to find similar music based on its features.

Genome Project then evolved into Pandora itself

Genome Project then evolved into Pandora itself (image by Shu Makino)

How does it work?

They’ve assigned each song from 150 to 450 genes depending on its genre. These parameters corresponded both to key characteristics of the music (like beat, melody, tempo) and to the smallest detail (like a level of distortion on the electric guitar or a type of background vocals). However, the full list of genes was never fully disclosed since it’s officially patented and constitutes a trade secret.

The craziest thing is that at first songs were analyzed manually! It took about 20-30 minutes and at least 1 musician to dissect each song. Later they’ve used this data to create a matching algorithm and develop a radio app known today as Pandora.

Why is Pandora so popular? How is it different from Apple Music, Spotify or any other streaming service?

If you’ve never used Pandora, it may seem like just another music streaming app. However, instead of trying to copycat existing solutions, the guys tried to take their own niche… and succeeded!

Today Pandora is the leading online radio company and 3rd most popular music streaming service in the US.

Statistic: Most popular music streaming services in the United States as of March 2018, by monthly users (in millions) | Statista

How did they manage to achieve this?

They’ve focused on solving the very specific users’ need — to discover new music that would match their preferences — and built the whole platform around it.

Of course, you still can listen to your favorite artists or create custom playlists. However, many of the common streaming app features are available only when you get the Pandora Premium subscription or after watching ads in the free version of the app.

So the best answer to the “how to develop a radio app and succeed?” question is to find your niche!

The key to Pandora’s success is in its music matching system:

  1. First, it analyzes each song in terms of the mentioned 150-450 parameters.
  2. Then it analyzes your own music preferences based on likes and dislikes you give the songs you listen to.
  3. The algorithm finds similarities between songs you like and dislike. For example, it may turn out that you prefer compositions with repetitive melodic phrasing and minor key tonality but avoid upbeat lyrics.

This system makes the Pandora Radio app different from other music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music.

Find your Niche. If you can’t build the Product that will be just better (cheaper, faster, work smoother) than competitors, focus on offering your customers a different experience.

This advice is especially relevant for startups and companies that are trying to enter a market that’s been already taken by one or a few big players.

Find your strategy to conquer the market

Find your strategy to conquer the market (image by Masudur Rahman )

From this perspective, the good news for you is that now Pandora is only available in the US. So you won’t have to compete with this radio market monster in Europe, Canada, Australia, South America or other parts of the world. It means that creating your own radio app for music like Pandora is still an option in these regions.

But how to develop a radio app for iOS or Android? This is a way to go and let’s start our journey by defining 3 main pillars that make up a good foundation of any radio app.

🧱 3 Pillars of Radio App Development

As always, a bit later we’ll describe a list of MVP features you’ll need to create a radio app like Pandora. However, there are a few things that require your attention even before you start the development itself.

License 📃

Obviously, you’ll need a legal right to use someone’s music in your application. That’s why the license is what you should think about before everything else.

How can you get it? Contact the copyright owner and buy it. Almost always professional publishers and songwriters belong to one of these organizations — BMI, SESAK or ASCAP. Consider them as a place to look for the contact information for the owner.

To stream music you'll have to get the license

To stream music you'll have to get the license (image by Julia)

Alternatively, you can reach out to (PRS) for Music or PPL music licensing companies for info about recordings.

However, be ready that it will cost you a pretty penny. For example, Pandora’s royalties for the right to broadcast music make up about 50% of the overall spending. As of 2015, Pandora paid over $610 million in royalty fees to copyright holders.

Streaming mechanism ⏯

Another thing to decide on is how exactly you will stream the music to listeners. In fact, this question mainly relates to the way you’ll store the data (music, in your case) and transfer it to users. There are 2 options to choose between:

  1. You can go with a cloud solution. In this case, your broadcast center will be installed on a virtual server, letting you stream music to users’ devices directly from the cloud.
  2. Alternatively, you can store your data on physical servers. Then the way to users will lay through the distribution server.

One more thing to consider on how to develop a radio app for Android or iOS is the technology behind your streaming process. These could be either WebRTC or RTMP. Both of these technologies are used for video/audio streaming over the Internet.

Matching (recommendations) mechanism 👍

Finally, you will also have to decide on the algorithm of recommendations. It’s important to remember that when you develop an app for a radio station matching, recommendations are the reason people use your application.

Most of the streaming apps (like Google Play Music or Apple Music) use the co-filtering method as an algorithm for preparing music recommendations. It means that recommendations are based on the ratings from other users who listen to similar music and, therefore, you may like what they listen as well.

Recommendations mechanism is important for radio apps

Recommendations mechanism is important for radio apps (image by Karl Martin)

However, Pandora relies on a completely different approach as we’ve figured it out earlier. This approach is also known as the content-oriented method since it involves the analysis of songs’ features itself.

The content-oriented approach proves to be more accurate and effective, however, it also requires more effort. After all, you will have to develop your own system of song analysis which is quite a tricky task.

📱 Top Features to Build a Radio App for Music like Pandora

It’s always crucial to make up a comprehensive list of features for your radio app like Pandora before you start developing it. It will define the scope of work, main fields of expertise to look for in your future tech partner and let you estimate development time and costs.

How do we do it? We at Stormotion are the true fans of Lean Methodology that recommends beginning with an MVP.

It means that you should focus only on those features that are vital for your audience. Thus, you’ll be able to prove your idea to be viable and gradually scale it without wasting time and resources.

Read Also

PoC vs MVP vs Prototype: When to Use Each

So let’s figure out what features make up the MVP list for your Radio app for music like Pandora. We’ll do it by dividing the features into user flows.

# 1: Sign Up Flow 🔐

This flow is what a user experiences when he interacts with your application for the first time.

Onboarding 📖

Usually, Onboarding is organized as a set of different screens that explain the most important pieces of the app’s functionality and navigation.

Despite it may seem like an unnecessary process, the study by Clutch reveals that 44% of users often download mobile apps just “for fun”. Thus, the Onboarding process is the very first moment when you can demonstrate the benefits of using your app and turn curious passersby into loyal users.

However, when you develop an app for radio station it’s also possible to choose another way to onboard new users. In the Pandora app, they show some of the most important mechanics right on the go as users explore the app:

One of the steps in Pandora's onboarding process

One of the steps in Pandora's onboarding process


The functionality of different radio apps is quite similar so people usually know what to expect. That’s why “on-the-go” onboarding may be even more effective in some cases.

After going through the onboarding process, users usually face the Sign Up screen. Let’s take a closer look!

Sign Up 🔑

You could notice that the Sign Up feature is always on our MVP lists. Why?

  • First, it’s used to link a specific user to his personal data (like a saved credit card to charge recurrent subscription payments or music preferences).
  • Second, personal profiles open advanced possibilities to retarget users both using push notifications and through emails.

However, as you will develop a radio app this screen will require special attention. If it’s not user-friendly, you can lose your customers before they even start using your app!

Therefore, here are a few tips on how to develop a radio app with the Sign Up process that won’t scare off your audience:

  • Make it fast & easy. The longer the Sign Up process is, the fewer people will complete it. Therefore, ask only for the necessary info at first (only name and email, for example) and leave the possibility to fill all other data later.
  • Don’t make it mandatory. If you make users sign up when they aren’t ready or don’t want to, they will probably quit your app and that’s it! To avoid this, ask for sign up only when it’s really needed (for example, when they want to get a premium subscription in your app).
  • Social Login is a must-have. With this feature, people can import their personal data from social media profiles (like Facebook or Instagram) so they won’t need to enter it manually.

Personal Profiles 👥

If users can Sign Up, it means they also can create and manage their Personal Profiles. How users should be able to manage them in a radio app like Pandora?

Personal Profile screen

Personal Profile screen (image by Paweł Łuczak)

At the MVP Stage, Profile management should be quite limited since it doesn’t relate to the main functionality of your application.

However, in further releases, you may add an option to add a profile pick, follow other users, see thumbed up songs, favorite artists and songs, etc.

With or without Sign Up, your users will end up on the main screen to get what they’ve come for — new music. Let’s see how it works.

# 2: Music Listening Flow 🎶

This is the main flow in your application. Here we gathered all the features you’ll need to develop a radio app similar to Pandora.

Discovery Screen 🎵

In the Pandora app, the Discovery screen is also known as the “For You” screen. It’s also the main screen for users who came to find new songs and artists or just want to listen to music but have nothing particular in their minds.

Do you want a little tip on how to develop a radio app with a great Discovery screen? Provide users with enough options to choose from. Diversity is the key to success here!

Music Discovery is one of the main screens in the app

Music Discovery is one of the main screens in the app (image by Tasha)

For example, in the Pandora app they offer users to choose from:

  • Unique platform-specific playlists. For example, they’ve had a “2019 Pandora Billionaires” playlist that featured artists with over 1 billion Pandora spins during the year.
  • Recently played stations for users who have used the platform at least once.
  • New music. Moreover, this section will then adjust to the user’s preferences, putting his favorite artists and genres at the forefront.
  • Stations and playlists based on activities and moods. For example, it may be Workout, Cooking/Cleaning, Rainy Day, Love, Party, Family Time, etc. After a user picks the needed category, he then can choose among appropriate playlists and stations.
  • Top songs, artists and stations of the week.
  • Playlists from curators.
  • Artists on the rise.
  • Popular artists in genres preferred by the user.

The UI of this screen should be clean and minimalist, not distracting from the music itself.

Collection Screen 🗃

In the Pandora application, My Collection is a separate tab to access previously saved music. From here you can turn on collected or recently played music.

Generally, it’s displayed in chronological order, putting the recently played songs, stations and playlists first. However, you can browse each category separately. The list of categories consists of the following items:

  • Artists.
  • Albums.
  • Songs.
  • Stations.
  • Playlists.
  • Podcasts.

On this screen, you can also filter the songs and play only the downloaded ones — something to remember if you plan to let your users access music caching.

However, music caching may not end up on your MVP list. For example, you may not need it if you develop an app for a radio station with no possibility to save and replay music any time users want it.

Also, this feature may be incorporated in your monetization strategy. If you’re building a radio app like Pandora, you may reuse their model: offline listening only comes together with the premium subscription.

In-app Music Player ⏯

We won’t waste your time by saying obvious things like “if you want to create a radio app like Pandora, you’ll need an in-app music player”. Despite it seems like a pretty standard feature with nothing to discuss, here are a few things worth paying attention to.

Pandora’s music player is different from the one you can find in Apple Music, Spotify or Google Play Music. Moreover, it actually has 2 different music players — one for listening to music discovery stations and one for your own collections or for the music you find through the Search tab. How are they different?

Example of general music player

Example of general music player (image by Hesham mohamed)

The music player that you used to listen to saved and found music is quite similar to the ones in other streaming apps. You can shuffle it, repeat, play next or previous song or add it to your collection.

Users can also access the menu for advanced options. For example, if they want to add this song to a specific playlist, share it with friends or start a radio station.

Moreover, users can swipe up to read the song’s lyrics or jump to the artist or the album.


Example of discovery music player

Example of discovery music player (image by Casey Tang)


The music discovery player is quite similar but has a few distinctive features. For example, it has “Thumb Up” and “Thumb Down” buttons to shape music recommendation algorithms.

Also, it doesn’t have a Return button. Instead, there’s a Repeat button but to use it users should either have the Pandora Premium subscription or watch ads to get access to this feature.

You could notice another monetization option for a radio app using a freemium model. I’m talking about the visual ads instead of the song cover.

Like in the first player, swipes up that open an advanced menu with detailed info about the artist and possibilities to add, share or bookmark the song work here as well.

Search 🔍

Search is another must-have feature in your Pandora-like application. It doesn’t have any specific features so our general recommendations would be:

  • Save the last search requests so users can quickly redo them.
  • Eventually, you may add the voice search feature but it’s something that can be avoided at the MVP stage.
  • Autosuggestion is another good feature to enhance the in-app Search. However, just like the voice search, it may wait for later updates.

What technologies will help your team deliver these features? Let’s check the tech stack!

⚙️ Tech Stack to Create a Radio App like Pandora

Here are a few technologies that can help you during your radio app development. Save it for your tech team!

💸 How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Radio App for Music?

Our developers made an approximate estimate of radio app development based on the most popular features. However, don't forget that these are only the rough numbers.

Radio App Features Estimated in Hours
Using React Native

⚙️ Features

⏳ Min Hours

⏱ Max Hours

⚙️ Setup Technical Foundations



🔐 Sign Up Flow






Sign Up Screen



Social Sign Up



Forgot Password



👥 Profile Management Flow



Thumbed up songs



Saved stations



See followers



See followed users



Favourite Artists






📻 Main | Discovery Screen



Recently Played



Recommended Playlists/Stations



Browse by Category



New Releases



Browse by Mood/Activities






🎶 Collection Screen



Browse by Artist



... by Album



... by Song



Saved/Made Playlists



Saved Stations



Music Player



⏱Total Hours



💵Approximate costs



Our team took an average for Eastern Europe rate of $40/hour to made this calculation. Yet, the final price depends on many factors as the rate of your developers, the number of features, the complexity of technologies, etc.

We can also make a more precise estimate of radio app development costs just for your project. For that, contact us and we'll be glad to help you!

💡 Takeaways

We hope this article made it clear how to develop a radio app for Android or iOS. The music streaming market keeps growing so it may seem like a promising idea.

Let’s recall the main steps you should take to develop a radio app that will take over the market:

  1. Define your Idea: where you want to launch your app, who your target audience is, how you’re going to settle the music license issue, etc.
  2. Find a reliable team to be your Tech Parter.
  3. Make up the list of MVP features for your application.
  4. Build an MVP and validate your idea.
  5. Grow!

We at Stormotion can be your Reliable Tech Partner to guide you through the development process. Share your idea with us by hitting the button below and get your MVP done by pros’!

Buid your Radio App with Stormotion!

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