Pandora on Thursday launched a new premium streaming music tier it's calling Pandora Plus. While it's not quite the Spotify killer most were expecting (that it coming at a later date), the new option - priced at $4.99 per month - does afford a wider range of features including the ability to listen offline.
The new premium tier, which will replace Pandora One (its existing $4.99 ad-free option), allows users to skip as many songs as they'd like and also replay tracks they've already heard. It also eliminates ads and dishes up higher-quality streams just as One did.
Pandora Plus also has a new offline listening mode that is quite clever. When the service detects that your connection has dropped, it'll play an audio alert before seamlessly switching you over to one of your four top stations based on what you've been listening to lately. That's a far better approach than simply stopping the music without warning as most other services do when your connection drops.
According to TechCrunch, Pandora Plus only has a catalog of around two million tracks - not all that much when you consider on-demand competitors regularly offer up 30+ million songs.
Pandora VP of Product, Chris Becherer, tried to spin the limited catalog as a good thing, saying that for them, it's not really quantity but the quality of the library and the curation around the tracks. I suppose that's what anyone would say in that position but I digress. The good news is that the Pandora Plus library will be expanded overtime.
Pandora's free, ad-supported option is also still available and will now offer more skips and replays (so long as you're willing to watch a video ad to unlock them).
Pandora is still working on its Spotify killer, an on-demand subscription service that'll likely be priced at the same $9.99 we're familiar with from everyone else.
Earlier this week, Pandora said it has signed licensing deals with two of the three major music labels - Sony and Universal Music - as well as indie labels Merlin and The Orchard (plus more than 30 other indie labels and distributors). The company is still reportedly working to ink a deal with Warner Music, the last piece of the puzzle it needs before launching an on-demand service. How soon the on-demand option arrives will likely depend on how quickly Pandora can button up a deal with Warner.
Pandora Plus and the added functionality for free listeners will begin rolling out today on Android and iOS devices. Pandora is taking the slow approach as only one percent of its user base will get the new options initially. Everyone else should gradually get access over the coming months, we're told, while those in Australia and New Zealand will have to wait until 2017.