Pandora’s free tier goes (more) interactive, as it launches new $4.99 service

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The ad-supported tier of Pandora, long defined as a lean-back, ‘non-interactive’ service, has undergone a significant transformation.

All users now have to do to skip more tracks and replay songs on the free radio platform is agree to watch certain video advertisements.

The company now appears to be running a trial with fast food company Taco Bell, which said Pandora has allowed it to “capture consumer intent and attention”.

It remains to be seen what the ability to both skip and rewind ‘radio’ tracks on Pandora’s free tier will mean for its non-interactive status in terms of US statutory licensing.


Pandora videoCurrently, Pandora pays the US webcasting rate for a non-interactive service: $0.0017 per play for non-subscription, $0.0022 for subscription.

This money goes through SoundExchange, and is split by the PRO between labels and artists.

The SoundExchange cash paid to artists is currently non-recoupable on their label deals.

Pandora’s free tier previously only offered users a limited number of 6 skips per hour, and 24 skips per day, with no rewind function.

Pandora also confirmed today that it was revamping its $4.99-a-month service with offline features, and confirmed that its own Spotify rival, a $9.99-per-month fully interactive product, will launch later this year.


The new $4.99-per-month tier, Pandora Plus, replaces Pandora One, which turned over $55.1m in the three months to end of June – around a seventh of the money generated by its ad-funded tier in the same period.

The big difference is Plus offers more skips and replay abilities than its predecessor, as well as what Pandora calls ‘an ingenious solution for offline listening that elegantly handles issues with lost connectivity and cellular data usage’.

TimWestergren-600x330“Whether a listener wants to take advantage of our enhanced ad-supported experience, our groundbreaking subscription radio service, or our fully interactive on-demand option coming later this year, we have a solution tailored for you at a price point you can afford.”

Tim Westergren, Pandora

In practical terms, that means whenever a user’s wifi or mobile connection drops out, Pandora will revert to a ‘predictive offline’ mode that automatically selects songs recommended for its listener.

Pandora Plus, like the service’s new ad-supported tier, will launch today in the US and roll out to listeners in the coming months on iOS and Android smartphones.

Pandora One subscribers will be automatically moved over to Plus.

For listeners in Australia and New Zealand, the new Pandora Plus and ad-supported features will be available in 2017.

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“We’re always delighting our listeners through continuous innovation and a relentless focus on simplicity and ease of use,” said Chris Phillips, chief product officer at Pandora.

“For example, our new predictive offline mode automatically detects when you lose signal and switches to one of your top stations that Pandora knows you love. No effort required. It just keeps playing.”

Pandora claimed that ‘advertisers in turn will benefit from a more engaged and attentive audience’.

“We’re always delighting our listeners through continuous innovation and a relentless focus on simplicity and ease of use.”

Chris Phillips, Pandora

Tim Westergren, founder and CEO at Pandora added: “We’re methodically and passionately developing the world’s most personal music experience. And that includes flexibility in how you listen and what you pay for it.

“Whether a listener wants to take advantage of our enhanced ad-supported experience, our groundbreaking subscription radio service, or our fully interactive on-demand option coming later this year, we have a solution tailored for you at a price point you can afford.”


Last we heard, Pandora had struck US-only direct licensing deals for its new services with UMG, Sony and Merlin, but not yet with Warner – which was believed to be holding out for a better rev share on the $9.99 product.

Pandora’s active monthly listener count fell in the three months to end of June, down 1.3m to 78.1m, compared to 79.4m in the same period of 2015.

Compare that to Spotify, which revealed an active user base in excess of 100m in Q2 (June) – a figure which grew by 25m people over the previous 12 months.

Pandora listenersMusic Business Worldwide

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  • willbuckley

    Yet another deal that allows free interactive music streaming. Doesn’t anyone in this industry have a long term strategy for survival?