Pandora has rolled out a paid ad-free service called Pandora Plus, which gives you features the service has never had before, like unlimited song skipping, song “replays,” and offline listening. It costs $4.99 a month, and will replace the current plan at that price, whose main feature is ad-free listening.
Pandora Plus is one of two new plans Pandora has been prepping for months.
The other will cost $9.99 and let you pick from millions of songs on demand, like Spotify and Apple Music. That one hasn’t been released yet, probably because Pandora is still locking down its final deals with music labels. Earlier this week, Pandora announced it had finalised its on-demand deals with Universal and Sony. Of the big three music labels, all that remains is Warner, and once that’s done, expect to see the on-demand plan make its grand entrance.
But for the time being, Pandora Plus offers to features fans have been begging for.
The first is “replays,” which allow you to go through your listening history and pick any song you want to play. That song will move to the front of your queue, and you can keep playing it as many times as you want.
If this sounds dangerously close to on-demand, that’s because it is.
“I wouldn’t call it on-demand,” Pandora VP of product Chris Becherer told Business Insider. But he did admit it’s beyond the basic functions of internet radio. That’s why those direct deals with the major labels were so important — without them, Pandora wouldn’t have been able to launch this feature, Becherer said. But some songs might not be available to replay — namely ones that don’t have their licensing deals nailed down.
You can also replay songs on Pandora’s ad-supported free tier, but you have to listen to a 15-second video ad first. When you do so, Pandora will give you a “handful” of replays, which you can use until they run out. Pandora is testing different bundle sizes.
The second feature Pandora is rolling out is “offline listening.”
One of the great things about services like Spotify and Apple Music is that you can save songs on your phone to listen to when you don’t have service — like when you’re on the subway, for instance. Pandora didn’t have that, but now you can get it for $4.99 per month with Plus.
Becherer said Pandora wanted offline listening to be simple and effortless, but that also means you don’t get a lot of choice.
Pandora will save four stations for you, including your “Thumbprint Radio,” and other ones its algorithm thinks you will probably want to listen to. The Pandora app will work in the background to keep these stations “fresh,” but only over wifi, so it won’t drain your data plan (unless you specifically set it to work on cellular as well).
The big gripe with this feature is going to be that you can’t choose exactly which stations you want to save for offline, and that it won’t automatically save the station you’re listening to currently. Becherer said the team was concerned about the data drain of that, and he contends that most people use Pandora in more of a lean-back way.
The other feature Pandora is introducing is unlimited skipping on Pandora Plus, well as the ability to receive a “package” of skips by watching a 15-second video ad on the free version (similar to the replay feature).
Pandora hopes the Pandora Plus “mid-tier” product will grab people who love Pandora, but want added functionality. The service does have over 100 million users to pitch this to, the vast majority of which use the free service today.
The company will roll these changes out gradually over the next month.