Pandora announced a series of moves last week that indicate the Internet-radio service has the competition firmly in its sights.
It’s no secret that Pandora is interested in a streaming model similar to that of rivals Spotify and Apple Music, with the company making its intentions clear after acquiring Rdio for $75 million in 2015. But the latest announcements offer evidence of a foundation being set in place.
The company introduced a revamped version of its existing premium service called Pandora Plus. For a monthly subscription of $5, users will be allowed more skips and the option to replay songs without advertisements disrupting the listening experience.
However, the most significant change is that users will now have the ability to listen to music while offline. Pandora Plus will automatically draw songs from favorite stations should a user choose to go offline or experience an interruption in connectivity.
Pandora Plus offers long-requested improvements to the radio service, provides consumers with a premium experience that is 50 percent cheaper than the industry standard of $10 per month, and gives the company a launching point for an on-demand service. But it still doesn’t provide users with the freedom to select tunes individually and play them without limits, and that restriction is what has allowed Pandora to operate without the need to obtain permission from record labels to use their music, according to The Wall Street Journal.
To address that specific concern, the company also announced that it has secured licensing agreements with Merlin Network, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and more than 30 indie labels and distributors. With the three major labels in tow, Pandora has the backing it needs to move forward with its plans of an on-demand offering and expand into international markets that were previously untapped – both of which could serve as catalysts for growth.
“We’re methodically and passionately developing the world’s most personal music experience,” Pandora CEO Tim Westergren said in a statement. “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.”
Pandora isn’t an upstart by any means, as it currently has more than 78 million active monthly users. The problem is the company is lagging far behind the competition in terms of paid subscribers with only 4 million, as opposed to Spotify’s 40 million and Apple’s 17 million. Will Pandora be able to close the gap with its latest moves? Ultimately the consumers will decide, and they’ll have a number of options to choose from.