Deep Dive: StatSocial Compares Sirius XM’s and Pandora’s Customers

Oct 1, 2018 | Insights

Here we have the story of one company set to acquire another. The intended purchaser, the sole player in its medium. The potentially purchased, a household name and one of the oldest players working its side of the street.

We are referring to last week’s news of Sirius XM acquiring the struggling online streaming service Pandora for a reported $3.5 billion.

Exploring what this merger could mean for both companies, as well as for marketers waiting to see what opportunities may lie within, we’ve put our StatSocial audience analysis engine to work, comparing and contrasting the demographics, affinities, likes, and loves of each company’s existing audience.


Beginning life many years back as an internet curiosity called the ‘Music Genome Project’ — a matching algorithm for streaming music— Pandora was one of the first major players to step forward and attempt to boldly prove that a sort of A.I. program director and a well-cataloged music library could satisfy listeners more than any human-run, one-size-fits-all radio station.

Any terrestrial radio station, at least.


Sirius XM is the only real American player in the satellite radio marketplace. It’s current incarnation is the result of the merger of two companies. Each entered the satellite radio world nearly simultaneously: Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio.

Howard Stern broadcasting on Sirius XM

Both services launched at around the start of the Millennium, and despite some big moves to grow an audience on the part of each, neither could quite get a foothold with the public significant enough to amount to profitability. The two competitors merged, effectively, to save the medium altogether.

Prior to the merger, Sirius had especially made some particularly grand moves. In ’04 they lured Howard Stern away from his millions of daily listeners at terrestrial, giving him a whole battery of channels on their service, to do with as he wished, unshackled of the FCC restrictions that had caused him so much grief throughout his career (he actually started broadcasting on the service in ’06). They also boasted contracts with the NFL, NBA, and NASCAR.

XM, while the smaller of the two, nonetheless did find under their belt the popular team of Opie & Anthony, and they also had Oprah under contract.

The history of how the two companies came to merge can be read about here.

The tale of that merger is not irrelevant to this piece. Some have questioned the wisdom of spending what’s a pretty penny on the struggling Pandora, but such mergers have worked out well for the company in the past.

Pandora has name-recognition. Sirius XM has proved to be formidable and resilient. Sirius signing Howard Stern to a five-year, multi-hundred-million-dollar contract (now twice renewed) was met with skepticism, but the self-proclaimed “King of All Media” brought millions of brand-new subscribers with him. It was a gamble that ultimately paid off.

While most of Pandora’s current active user-base is advertiser-supported, that population is at around 70 million (with 5.5 million opting for Pandora’s premium, commercial free option). Sirius XM uses a solely pay, subscriber-based model, with their audience numbering around 30 million. There’s a lot to work with here, for both parties. StatSocial is uniquely equipped to dig into the details. Here we’ll be learning to what and to whom precisely each company will be gaining access through this merger.

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An Explanation of the Insights Below:

These insights are sorted according to our index score. What that tells you, at a glance, is the degree to which the audience being analyzed either exceeds, is in line with, or falls short of the average American social media audience — the baseline we’re using for this piece — when it comes to sharing in a given affinity. Our platform allows tremendous flexibility in terms of what baseline you may use to give your statistics context, but for this we’re going with the U.S. average.

Raw audience numbers are an important statistic, but can be misleading, or only tell you part of a story. For example, Ellen DeGeneres has 76 million followers on Twitter, 29 million on Facebook, 27 million subscribers on YouTube, and so forth. When sorted by raw number alone Ellen may top a lot of lists, including those where the proportion of the analyzed audience who are her fans falls well short of the average.

Viewing an audiences’ affinities through the lens of our index score is one of the key insights into what’s distinctive about that audience. It gives the raw number statistic context. Armed with that knowledge, how to go about reaching any audience is far more obvious.

PLEASE NOTE: While each of the below topics highlights a top 10 list, our taxonomies for these subjects — and many, many more — number in the thousands.

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Sirius XM


Well, right off the bat we see Pandora bringing a proportionally larger audience of women to the equation. The female portion of Sirius XM’s audience is hardly insignificant at nearly 45%. Nonetheless, each service’s gender breakdown is a mirror image of the other’s. While it’s only a guess on our parts that existing Sirius XM users will have automatic access to some version of Pandora’s premium service, if that is the case, Sirius XM will still have access to a significant female audience they’d may not have been able to reach previously.


Sirius XM


While Pandora does under-index with the ages 34 and under demo, they only do so to a small extent. Over 41% of their audience is under 34, and a not insignificant nearly-17% is under age 25. By contrast, while Pandora is dead-on with the baseline (of the average American social media audience) when it comes to the 35 to 44 set — whereas Sirius XM counts that bracket among their current crowd by about a hair above the norm —over 46% of the Sirius XM audience is over age 45, whereas that bracket accounts for only a little over 35% of Pandora’s audience.

It’s obvious that each platform has an opportunity to grow from this merger, just on passing glance. While there is a similar make-up to each audience, one is a bit stronger in the exact areas where the other is a bit deficient.


Sirius XM

While Sirius XM‘s “Mostly Music” package only costs $1 a month more than Pandora’s premium service, more subscribers opt for the $16 a month “Select” service, or go for the whole enchilada for $21 a month (where you get all the sports and Stern, and a lot of the most enticing features). Many Sirius XM users first came to the service due to the fact that most new cars, sold in the U.S. over the past few years, come outfitted with a Sirius XM receiver and a year of free service.

Both of these factors, you’d think, would lead to Sirius XM’s audience being the higher earners. When it comes to annual incomes, this audience is danged near being entirely flush with the baseline in all income brackets. Those earning under $50 thousand a year are slightly over indexed. Present among this audience to a degree nearly exceeding the baseline by one-and-one-tenth times.


On the other hand, Pandora— to whose users Sirius XM will now have access to an unprecedented degree— find the segment of their audience who earns at least six figures a year exceeding the baseline by over one-and-one-third times. A little over 60% of Pandora’s audience earns in excess of $50,000 a year, whereas the proportion of Sirius XM’s audience earning that well is just shy of 50%.


Sirius XM


Not entirely surprisingly, the top influencer with the Sirius XM crowd is “The King of All Media,” and former ‘America’s Got Talent’ judge, Howard Stern. Dominating the list, his fans are dwelling among the Sirius XM audience by a proportion 12 times greater than the average.

Comedians and / or “funny people” figure prominently throughout the list. Jimmy Kimmel, who in addition to being a popular late-night TV host is also a close personal friend of Howard Stern’s, proves a worthy runner-up. His fans can be found among the Sirius XM audience to a degree three-and-four-fifths times greater than their existence among the average U.S. social media audience.

A profound revelation, however, in terms of suggesting a genuine wisdom informing this acquisition is the top influencer on Pandora’s list. It would seem that while Mr. Stern has perhaps not yet conquered streaming officially, when it comes to hearts, minds, and influence, it is one more medium of which he is perhaps the king. His fans can be found among the Pandora audience to an extent greater than the baseline by three-and-a-half-times.

Beyond that, and consistent with what you might expect, half the top 10 influencers for Pandora are musicians. Justin Timberlake, who is a social media behemoth (in terms of audience size — across platforms — and social mentions), finds fans here — for even as many as he has — to a degree exceeding the baseline by over two-and-two-fifths times.


Sirius XM

The brands for which Sirius XM’s audience displays the strongest affinities are all varying sizes of biggies. From a marketing perspective, however, it’s still significant that admirers of Starbucks reside among this audience to an extent exceeding the baseline by what’s approaching two-and-three-quarters times. Coca-Cola finds fans of their already enormously popular soft drink here to an extent exceeding the average social media crowd by two-and-a-half-times.


Pandora brings a different array of brand affinities into the mix. Reflecting the larger female audience, right off the bat, is Victoria’s Secret. They find favor among Pandora’s audience to a degree exceeding the baseline by comfortably over one-and-two-thirds times.

Sirius XM seems stronger with entertainment brands, sporty brands, and retail. Pandora, however, does bring Macy’s and Kohl’s to the partnership, a whole lot of fast food, but also Whole Foods, and the Apple-owned Beats by Dre brand headphones. A brand of appeal to both platforms, but particularly if Sirius XM is seeking to expand beyond their primarily car-based audience to listeners who tune in while at the gym, going out for a walk, or commuting to work by train.


Sirius XM

List of the most over-indexed musical acts Sirius XM fans enjoy compared to the average American.


List of the most over-indexed musical acts Pandora fans enjoy compared to the average American.

Here’s where we see the degree to which these audiences are ripe for a merger. The two lists share acts, of course, and more importantly they share format. While there’s a mixed bag of acts spanning eras from Woodstock to Lollapalooza, from the vantage point of today only Beck seems at all out of place next to the other bands. Alice in Chains and Soundgarden owed more than a passing debt to 70s FM rock, and 25 years past their heyday, don’t sound the least bit peculiar next to Led Zeppelin.

All reasonable human beings love ZZ Top, so both companies should be pleased to be informed that such humans are abundant on either side.


Sirius XM

Cable and broadcast shows dominate here. Not a streaming show to be found among the 10. Further digging into deeper insights, of course, could reveal that it is indeed via streaming that this audience is accessing this programming. Some insights will give rise to further questions, as they should. Be assured StatSocial is always well and fully prepared to satisfy further investigation.

Such investigations could also reveal, however, that these pay radio users are a prime audience for being swayed to the appeals and advantages of cord-cutting.


Cable and broadcast are well represented here as well. This audience displays affinity for Hulu’s Aaron Paul starring ‘The Path,’ however, to a degree exceeding the baseline by slightly over 11 ¼ times. Netflix’s ‘Fuller House’ finds fans here to a degree greater than the average by eight-and-four-fifths times.

Many of the network shows indexed most highly with this audience are acknowledged as programs that reach a significant portion of of their fans via streaming (‘Seth Meyers,’ ‘Gotham,’ ‘Supergirl,’ ‘Empire,’ etc). At this point this is just a hypothesis — but, again, an educated hunch on which you and all StatSocial users could easily follow up by digging into any of the thousands of additional insights StatSocial puts right at your fingertips —but comparing and contrasting these two lists suggests that Pandora’s audience is comprised of a largely streaming-population. This makes sense. Similarly logical, the Sirius XM audience seems more wed to the old pay television and broadcast models.

The opportunities for growth — and marketing — presented here could be enormous.


Sirius XM

Curiously, although Pandora is the more explicitly music oriented service, such melodious interests are more prevalent here. Seven of the top 10 are music-related, including the first six most highly indexed.


Pandora’s audiences’ most highly indexed interests, on the other hand, are primarily extra-musical. Number 10, clothing, is over-indexed by one-and-three-quarter times. Radio rules, as you’d anticipate, at over nine times. But television over-indexes by two-and-a-quarter times, e-commerce by two-and-three-quarters times.

Both audiences love metal, though, with Sirius XM’s audience banging heads to a degree exceeding the baseline by nearly three times, and Pandora’s crowd throwing up their horns to a degree approaching two-and-two-thirds times greater than the average.


As you’ll find elsewhere on the StatSocial site, we explain StatSocial Clusters with the words below:

About StatSocial Clusters

Our data scientists have modeled the entire US population into 200 unique clusters. Using billions of inputs for over 120M US consumers, we have segmented naturally occurring population clusters across distinct demographic and household types, personality traits provided by IBM Watson, combined with people’s passions, which we have sourced from their social activities online. For those familiar with traditional clustering models such as PRIZM, Personicx, Mosaic, and Tapestry, we believe this layer of social behaviors, which only StatSocial can offer, provides the richest possible insights into what motivates different types of people. We think you’re going to love the context our cluster analysis will provide.

You can click through here to read our descriptions of all 200 unique segments.

Here are the Clusters most highly indexed among the biggest fans of Pandora and Sirius XM:

From the above linked to page, here are the descriptions for the top five items on each Cluster list. Head over to the link to see the descriptions of the whole lot.

Sirius XM

  1. Edie Em’s (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline to a degree of nearly eight-and-one-quarter)
    These urbanites, 58% men, and in their mid-20s-to-early-30s are the ones who took what Electronic Dance Music was in the 80s and 90s — dozens of genres and subgenres, constantly striving to innovate — and turned it all into one, big, loud, dumb genre of music where it all sounds alike to even its biggest fans. IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® reveals a group sort of lacking any predominant personality traits, beyond a slightly heightened tendency toward Neuroticism. Whatever their hang-ups, though, it’s all forgotten when they’re standing in a field together, bouncing up and down, watching an extravagant pyrotechnic display, and waiting for that bass to drop.
  2. Screaming For Vengeance (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline by a bit over five-and-three-fifths times)
    Unsurprisingly these men and women — in their 20s and 30s, and well outside the city for the most part — are, as IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® informs us, Neurotic least of all. Why? Because the metal keeps them confident, united, focused, and strong. Metal is their maiden, and Maiden — wiith a capital M — coming to town is one of each year’s highlights. Shunned and mocked by many elitist music fans, they are unconcerned. They are bonded by blood, leather, and steel, and if all else falls by the wayside, you can guarantee this group will still be banging their heads
  3. TV Then, TV Now (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to to a degree exceeding the baseline by a bit over four-and-three-fifths times)
    In the suburbs, maybe a bit in the city, resides this group of mostly women in their 40s. They are Agreeable and outgoing. IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® adds that what they’re not is particularly Open to trying and/or experiencing new things. This might explain the strain of nostalgia which predominates their shared affinities (broken by the presence of former cable, and now streaming talk show pioneer Chelsea Handler). A touch of 80s sitcoms, MTV reality and game shows from the early-’00s, some 90s-names find their way in there, and pop culture with a strong emphasis on television rules the affinity roost in general
  4. Hip Hop: For the Children (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to to a degree nearly four times in excess of the baseline)
    This group consists of 72% men, in their mid-30s-to-40s, and living in the city. They’re shared affinities revolve mostly around ’90s and ’00s Hip Hop. More contemporary names do rate as worthy of their attention. But, for example, many members of Shaolin’s finest (that’s The Wu-Tang Clan) rank among their greatest shared loves. Also such basic essentials to the Hip Hop fan with his or her ear to the ground, such as ‘XXL Magazine,’ and online mixtape repository/free-for-all, are common ground for this squad. IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® tells us this team is Open above all other things, and Agreeable to a relatively statistically minor degree.
  5. A Leftward Slant (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline by a little over three-and-seven-tenths times)
    This group resides so entirely within the city, the city practically resides within them. 53% male, and a mid-40s crowd. IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® has concluded from their analysis of our data that this cadre is not even a little Agreeable. Also, this lot is only a hair above moderately Conscientious, and not at all outgoing. But they are profoundly Open to new experiences, and virtually free of Neuroses. They’re liberals, or at least seem to lean that way. What we know for certain is that their shared affinities read like a what’s what and who’s who of the nation’s most prominent, leftward leaning newspapers, magazines, websites, and bloggers/columnists.


  1. Food Court Cult (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline to a degree about four-and-two-fifths times)
    Far outside of the city there exists a group, consisting of 69% women, in their late-30s-to-early-40s, who are least of all Open to new experiences, and most of all Agreeable. This, of course, according to our data when looked at through IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® tool. Where this lot may be prone to excess would be in the areas of salts, carbohydrates, and saturated fats. Even if it’s the increasingly common healthy alternative menu items they favor, though, this crew is bound by a love of the restaurant chains dotting roadside America (and frankly many of the rest of the world’s roadsides), and these franchises quickly and/or ready prepared, relatively affordable meals.
  2. Hipsters (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline by a hair about three-and-four-fifths times)
    With this throng, urbanites in their 30s, you’ve just got to call it like it is. These are hipsters. Men and women (54% the latter) in their 20s and 30s. They listen to arena-headlining musical acts, but take their pride in their refined tastes; Bjork, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, etc. Their excitement over LCD Soundsystem’s return has been unrestrained. Pitchfork readers, still, and if they can, they attend each year’s SXSW. They laugh at themselves, watching ‘Portlandia.’ ‘Vice’ is a valued news source. Open above all other personality traits. IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® also says they are equal parts Neurotic and Conscientious, which is a hair below average.
  3. Hip Hop: For the Children (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline by )
    This group consists of 72% men, in their mid-30s-to-40s, and living in the city. They’re shared affinities revolve mostly around ’90s and ’00s Hip Hop. More contemporary names do rate as worthy of their attention. But, for example, many members of Shaolin’s finest (that’s The Wu-Tang Clan) rank among their greatest shared loves. Also such basic essentials to the Hip Hop fan with his or her ear to the ground, such as ‘XXL Magazine,’ and online mixtape repository/free-for-all, are common ground for this squad. IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® tells us this team is Open above all other things, and Agreeable to a relatively statistically minor degree.
  4. A Bargain Around Every Corner (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline by about three-and-four-fifths times)
    Under the magnifying glass here is a group of 40-something, suburbanites, nearly rural, and 87% women. IBM Watson’s Personality Insights® says they’re Conscientious in the grand scheme, and fairly Agreeable. They are not at all Neurotic. Their shared affinities are a combination of food manufacturers, big box stores, and other companies known for producing or vending consumer goods for which affordability is a major selling point. Additional affinities include couponing, contests and giveaways, and discounts. Frugality is their common ground, or perhaps just good old fashioned common sense (and cents, but not so much scents… no one likes cheap perfumes or colognes).
  5. Tyler Perry’s ‘Scandal’ (those belonging to this Cluster occur here to a degree exceeding the baseline by what’s approaching three-and-a-half-times)
    This group of 80% women, in their 30s and 40s, live a bit in the city, but more in the ‘burbs. When viewed through the lens of IBM Watson’s Personality Insights®, our data says that among this bunch you’ll find those of an Agreeable personality the second most prominent. The outgoing (or Extraverted) are best represented. The affinities binding this team are largely those African American entertainers and media figures with more of a family, and/or grown up appeal. Meaning, in other words, Tyler Perry for the former, Kerry Washington for the latter, and Steve Harvey — depending on the project — appealing to both.

PERSONALITIES (courtesy of IBM Watson™ Personality Insights)

Among the vast many audience insights uncovered in every StatSocial report is an analysis of the personality types most prevalent in the audience our engine is being employed to analyze. The ability to derive these spectacularly useful and unique insights from our audience data comes via our proud partnership with IBM Watson™ and our integration of their Personality Insights tool into our reporting.

Personality Insights, in the case of its application to StatSocials audience insights, processes all the public online writings — on social media, blogs, message boards, comments threads, and so forth — of those comprising the audience being analyzed. Using sophisticated linguistic analytics, Personality Insights infers the characteristics of each audience member. Starting with the widely applied Big Five taxonomy of personality traits and psyche. From there Watson™ analyzes further, uncovering needs, values, and more.

Visit the IBM Watson™ Personality Insights website for more in depth explanations.

Sirius XM

Of the Big Five, Agreeableness, Openness, and Conscientiousness predominate here. Each of these alone carries with it tremendous meaning for the marketer.

On those fundamental levels the Agreeable would tend to support social innovation, tend to be concerned with environmental matters, are more motivated to buy online, and are not so concerned with fashion. The Open welcome risk, embrace technological advancements, are not so concerned with style and prestige favoring reliability and substantive quality.

Digging into the deeper personalities here, those highlighted in this top 10, we find Self-efficacy (a sub-trait of Conscientiousness) topping the list. That trait can be found among this crowd to a degree exceeding the baseline by nearly one-and-a-quarter times. Another trait that falls under the Conscientiousness banner, Dutifulness, is present among the individuals in this audience to a degree exceeding the average U.S. social media audience also by about one-and-a-quarter times.

Those associated with the number one trait manage their money more sensibly, but also have more positive attitudes regarding financial matters. They make their purchases less impulsively, have greater quantities in savings, and carry a far smaller debt burden than most.


Most of the traits here fall under the Big Five umbrellas of Conscientiousness and Agreeableness.

The number one trait, however, is associated with Openness. From a marketing perspective, the Artistically Interested are — as suggested — drawn to those things that are visually beautiful or creatively inventive. They tend to favor technological advancement, and have a preference for musics and all forms of media perceived to fall outside of the mainstream. They are not risk-averse. Those with an Artistic Interest reside among the Pandora audience to a degree exceeding the baseline by one-and-one-fifth times.

From a marketing perspective, those falling the Big Five Conscientiousness banner will tend to be more self-possessed, fashion and prestige conscious, yet also be smarter with their money.

A further explanation of much of this, including examples of how these personality traits are translated into practical marketing applications, can be found at the IBM Watson™ website which you can visit by clicking here.


Earlier this year when this acquisition / merger would merely have been the stuff of broad speculation and wild rumor, Pandora had announced that they would be integrating an ever increasing number of podcasts into their service. Only last month they announced that a proposed ‘Podcast Genome Project could be launching by the start of 2019.

While we’re not entirely certain what might be happening with any of that, as it’s early days yet, there might be a lot to be said for Sirius XM making their content available more easily via streaming services (they do have an online portal already). Additionally, giving existing podcasts — a medium which is, frankly, doing anything but dying — a platform away from online, perhaps over the Sirius XM satellite waves could be beneficial for numerous parties.

Here are the top 10 podcasts with each platform as of just prior to the merger.

Sirius XM

A healthy mix of types of shows — comedy, left-leaning, unabashedly conservative, sports shows — this category surely reflects a diverse array of tastes among this audience in a way not all of the above do.

Notably, Joe Rogan has in the past couple of years really begun to emerge as one of the kings of the medium. Adam Carolla, one of the pioneers of not just the medium, but figuring out how to monetize it, does a show that is virtually indistinguishable from a radio show. Joe Rogan, whose over-indexing with this crowd finds him in 8th place, still — with the largest raw number found among this list (his fans accounting for 6.6% of this audience) — finds favor here to a degree exceeding the average American social media audience by just about six-and-two-thirds times. His show is freeform, often running for close to or even in excess of three hours, normally featuring a single guest. He has sponsors, but he does not interrupt his interviews to promote them.

Rogan, a stand-up comic by trade (who is also a martial artist, MMA announcer, former ‘Fear Factor’ host, among numerous other things) has been in the game since practically the medium’s inception. Recent years, however, have found him emerging as one who could potentially be the medium’s new king.


It seems reasonable that of all the podcasts indexing most highly with Pandora’s audience, NPR’s ‘All Songs Considered’ would come out on top. Finding favor here to a degree exceeding the baseline by 11 ⅘ times. The show is the lynchpin of NPR Music, public radio’s website focused on the mission of leading its fans to new music. Via different means, the endeavor has a similar mission to Pandora.

All podcasts on this list are popular, and they all find favor among this audience to degrees ranging from roughly four to seven times in excess of the norm.

Conclusion: We deal in stats. Oh yes, we interpret them too, but this is more an illustration of the very tippy top of the mountain of stats that are available to any and all who integrate StatSocial’s insights into their marketing, advertising, programming, and /or any business decisions of which you can think.

We would say that there are numerous potentially massive benefits that could result from this merger, both due to the degrees to which the audiences overlap in tastes and types, and also due to where one platform is strong where the other could be stronger. Time will tell, but based on these findings, there’s reason to be optimistic regarding what the future could hold for whatever they may call the new Sirius XM + Pandora paradigm.

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