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Pandora puts its on-demand service live

By | Published on Tuesday 14 March 2017


Pandora’s fully on-demand service will go live this week, meaning a $9.99 package more in line with your Spotifys and Apple Musics will now be available from the US digital music firm, in addition to its existing free and $4.99 personalised radio options.

Pandora’s move into fully on-demand streaming has been expected for some time, of course, and in late 2015 it bought the assets of the defunct Rdio to help with the build. It then formally announced that Pandora Premium was incoming last year, in part because its main rival in the personalised radio space Stateside, iHeart Radio, was launching its paid for options, which include a fully on-demand offer powered by Napster.

Both Pandora and iHeart Radio are massive in the US, each previously utilising a compulsory licence available under American copyright law which meant their personalised radio services could go live without doing any bespoke deals with the record companies. That compulsory licence allowed Pandora to get to market super-early while iHeart – although launched much later – benefited from the huge network of AM and FM radio stations the company owns, which promoted the streaming service relentlessly.

The vast majority of Pandora and iHeart users are currently signed up to the free ad-funded personalised radio service. But ad-funded streams aren’t especially lucrative, and both firms have moved into paid-for streaming – offering $4.99 ad-free personalised radio and $9.99 on-demand streams – in a bid to drive new revenue.

Of course, the challenge there is that those companies whose core business is already paid-for streaming are also currently loss making. Though, it has to be said, the chances of going into profit are higher with paid-for streaming, which is basically a numbers game – reach a certain scale and the business model can, in theory, work.

Pandora and iHeart both hope that they can exploit their massive free userbases to sign up the tens of millions of paying subscribers they will need for their new subscription businesses to work.

Both are also keen to stress that their $9.99 packages are not direct rip offs of Spotify and Apple Music, but have been specially designed to suit a more mainstream consumer: iHeart by bringing traditional radio programming into the mix, Pandora by claiming it has managed to create a less interactive interactive music experience.

Referencing its Music Genome Project that has always driven the personalisation of its core radio service, Pandora says of playlisting on it’s new on-demand set-up: “Everyone loves playlists, but not everyone has time to make them. You’ve probably had this happen before: you think of three or four songs for a ‘workout’ or ‘study’ playlist, but building the rest of it just feels like work”.

It goes on: “In Pandora Premium, start a playlist with one or two songs of your choice, tap ‘Add Similar Songs’ and put the power of our Music Genome Project to work to quickly and effortlessly create the perfect playlist for any activity, mood or party. No other service makes playlist creation so fun and easy”.

The firm also claims that it has made it easier to navigate the big library of tracks that most of the streaming services now offer. “Finding what you want to hear in a sea of 40 million songs can be exhausting for even the most patient music fan”, it says in a blog post pitching the on-demand package.

“In Pandora Premium, we’ve done the hard work of separating the killer from the filler for you. We’ve filtered out karaoke tracks, knock-off covers and pet sounds (but not ‘Pet Sounds’) that slow down other services. You get fast, accurate search results that get even smarter over time”.

It remains to be seen whether Pandora – and iHeart Radio – really can sign up the more mainstream music fan that perhaps others in the on-demand streaming space are yet to reach.