Pandora Rolls out Free Tier, New Paid Features

Internet Radio service Pandora just rolled out a host of new features in its attempt to compete with Spotify and Apple Music. The changes include an overhaul to the $4.99 service plus a new ad-enabled free tier that allows the user to earn track replays and skips.

“Listeners will now have more control over their advertising and listening experience with the ability to skip more songs and replay songs simply by opting into a video ad,” stated Thursday’s press release.

Pandora’s updated 4.99/month tier 1 ‘Pandora Plus’ replaces the existing Pandora One. It gives subscribers “more skips, replays and an ingenious solution for offline listening that elegantly handles issues with lost connectivity and cellular data usage.” The predictive offline mode will automatically detect when the user loses signal, switching to a related top station without an interruption.

This announcement follows Monday’s announcement that it had acquired the licenses to music from Sony Music, Universal Music and the Merlin Network, which represents some 20,000 independents. Pandora also made deals with the Sony-owned distributor The Orchard and over 30 other independent labels and distributors, it said.

With these licenses, Pandora’s $10/month option will make an attempt to compete with Spotify and Apple Music, offering tens of millions of tracks.

Pandora Plus however has a catalog of only around 2 million, but it will grow larger in time. “…for us, it’s not really quantity, but the quality of the library – of the curation around the tracks,” says Pandora VP of Product, Chris Becherer, “With these new partnerships, we’re able to take that library and do more interesting features with it.”

“The ability to replay your favorite track is something that’s not been previously available  on internet radio,” he adds, as an example.

Both the new free tier and Pandora Plus launches today and will roll out to mobile device users on iOS and Android in the coming months. Pandora One users will transition to the new Pandora Plus service during that time.

Pandora’s availability it limited to U.S., Australia and New Zealand due to licensing restrictions.