Pandora Premium opens to all, invites no longer needed

Pandora Premium, the company’s paid, on-demand service and rival to Spotify, is today available to all users. The service was technically launched in March, but required users request an invitation to join, as it ramped up to its broader, public availability.

The service itself is essentially Pandora’s own spin on on-demand music, offering a combination of radio-like listening as well as the ability to search and play any track and build playlists. It costs $9.99 per month, which is in line with other offerings on the market today, including Spotify and Apple Music.

Pandora Premium is not Pandora’s only paid tier, however. The company had previously launched Pandora Plus, a $5 per month service that includes a wider feature set – like the ability to skip more songs, access more replays and listen offline. That service launched with a smaller catalog of around 2 million tracks, compared with the 40+ million available on Premium. But today both services offer the same amount of content, the company says.

The Premium service has a few advantages over rivals, ranging from its attractive design thanks to the acquisition of the well-built Rdio back in 2015 and its teams’ talents, as well as its recommendations that draw from users’ longtime listening history on Pandora’s popular radio app. Pandora is focusing these recommendations to include new album suggestions in addition to just a set of tracks you might like.

Pandora also says it has filtered its catalog to remove the “karaoke tracks, knock-off covers and pet sounds” that bog down other services, and it uses its “Music Genome Project” technology to help users automatically build their playlists.

However, Pandora is still playing a game of catch-up in the on-demand music space, despite its radio app’s popularity. The service today has 81 million total listeners monthly, but a smaller portion of those are paying customers. (4.48 million subscribe to Pandora Plus). By comparison, Spotify recently hit 50 million paying customers, and Apple Music has grown to 20 million subscribers as of December.

Meanwhile, Pandora has been recently reported to be shopping for private equity in order to expand its business.

Pandora kicked off today’s public launch of Premium with a marketing campaign “Sounds Like You,” which includes participation from artists such as Big Sean, Gorillaz, Miranda Lambert, Questlove, 2 Chainz, Amine, Bishop Briggs, Brett Eldredge, Daya, Halsey, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Lil’ Yachty, Maggie Rogers, Nicky Jam, Pitbull, Thomas Rhett and Ziggy Marley.

The campaign involves digital ads, billboards, influencer programs, and social media integrations, including Snapchat lenses and filters and custom Twitter emoji. The ads will encourage users to check out curated mixtapes, says Pandora.

Pandora Premium is live now on iOS, Android, Chromecast, and integrated into the car via Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, GM, Honda, Hyundai, JVC Kenwood, Pioneer, and Subaru. It will arrive on desktop and other connected devices in the months ahead.