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PANDORA THUMBS A RIDE WITH PREMIUM SERVICE

Pandora has entered the on-demand streaming game, and will now be a direct competitor with Spotify, Apple Music and the rest. The digital giant’s long-awaited all-you-can-eat subscription tier, Pandora Premium, launched this morning on iOS and Android platforms at the industry-standard fee of $9.99 per month, with invitations to a free trial rolling out to select users on 3/15. All Pandora users will be offered the option to upgrade in the ensuing weeks.

Subscribers to Pandora Plus, the $4.95 enhanced, ad-free service that rolled out last year, will be entitled to a six-month trial of the Premium version at no extra charge.

Will Pandora, with its 81 million or so monthly active users—despite currently being available only in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand—become a major contender in the maturing on-demand marketplace? Could the familiarity of its interface be a vital means of on-boarding subscribers? Stay tuned.

We had a chance to play with the service—built on the bones of RDIO, which Pandora acquired in 2015—and it’s a natural, on-demand progression from the intuitive radio service that’s earned Pandora such consumer loyalty over the years. You can quickly build a playlist the way you’ve always built a station, starting with a single song or artist and then letting the service’s Music Genome Project populate the list with similar songs, knocking out the ones you don’t want and dropping new songs or artists into the mix as desired. Continuing Pandora users will find that every song they’ve ever given a thumb up is stored in a “My Thumbs Up” playlist, and will help guide the service in recommending new music. Everything can be downloaded for offline listening.

 

Naturally you can also build your own playlists from scratch and enjoy full albums, hit singles and pre-made playlists (like the very cool one from Pandora evangelist Questlove). Perhaps the most salient feature of Pandora Premium, however, is its intuitive simplicity. We could envision “curating” a party playlist with one hand while making potato salad with the other, moments before guests arrived.

“Every day, tens of millions of people trust us to choose the exact right song for them,” proclaimed CEO Tim Westergren (pictured at right). “With Premium, we’re leveraging our immense trove of data and everything we’ve learned about personalization to offer a listening experience that sets a new standard for what a music service should be. And if it weren’t for my playlist of Norwegian death metal I would never have been able to come up with this quote.”

In addition to the aforementioned mobile platforms, Premium can be sampled in cars via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in cars by GM, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda and Subaru, and on Google Chromecast. Look for it to roll out elsewhere in the next few months.

 

 

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