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In the U.S. at least, music streaming is now more popular than digital downloads. Premium music services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer are also growing in popularity. This upward trend should continue, especially now that another familiar name has introduced its own streaming music service. Pandora Premium arrives a few months after the company purchased key assets from the now-defunct Rdio.
Will Pandora Premium Find Success?
It remains an open question whether Pandora Premium will find success. However, the company does have 81 million reasons to be optimistic. That is, if you hadn’t already guessed, the number of active users who listen to Pandora each month. By comparison, there are 50 million Spotify Premium subscribers and 20 million paying customers to Apple Music.
If Pandora can turn just 10 percent of those listeners into paying customers, Pandora Premium would become the third most-popular music streaming service, ahead of Deezer, which has 6.9 million users.
What Does Pandora Premium Offer?
Generally speaking, Pandora Premium is very similar to other subscription-based music streaming services. For $9.99 per month, you have unlimited access to millions of songs that you can listen to or download for offline use across multiple platforms.
So why try it? As a long-time Spotify Premium subscriber (which is well worth the upgrade), I was excited to put Pandora Premium throught its paces. Having tested the new music subscription service for a couple of weeks, we have come up with six reasons it’s worth giving a spin.
1. Pandora Premium Focuses on What You Love
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Spotify Premium is its many curation tools that help you find new music to enjoy. Curation is also a part of Pandora Premium, but not to the same degree. Instead, the focus here is on providing easy access to the songs and albums you already love.
Under the “My Music” tab, you’ll find recently played songs, albums, and stations. Better still, Pandora Premium sorts this content in reverse chronological order, which pushes the stuff you listen to most on Pandora right to the top.
I’ll never grow tired of finding new music through Spotify Premium, but I can recognize that not everyone likes getting lost in new music. For those folks, Pandora Premium might be a better solution.
2. Pandora Premium Offers Curation Tools
Although it takes a toned down approach, Pandora Premium does still offer a selection of curation tools. Under “Browse,” you’ll find new music that’s tailored to you every week, including recommendations based on the albums and genres that your history says you like.
You’ll also find sections that include the top songs and albums that are being enjoyed by other Pandora Premium users.
3. Pandora Premium Ups Its Search Game
Pandora Premium has 40 million songs in its library, which compares nicely with other services. What you won’t find here, however, are things like karaoke tracks, knock-off tributes, and duplicate tracks, which Pandora says slow down other services when it comes to search.
Regarding the time it takes to perform a search, I haven’t noticed much of a difference between Pandora Premium and other similar services such as the new Napster. However, I have noticed that the results seem less cluttered on Pandora Premium, even though the actual content is essentially the same.
Now that I know Pandora Premium doesn’t include odd-sounding cover tracks, I’ll take a closer look in the future.
4. Giving Pandora Premium the Old Thumbs Up
Thumbing tracks up and down has always been an important part of listening to Pandora Radio. The premium service retains this feature, but with extra bells and whistles.
First, right out of the box, Pandora has kept track of every song you’ve ever thumbed up across all your stations and added them to a “My Thumbs Up” playlist in Pandora Premium. Yes, every song.
Additionally, whenever you give a track the thumbs up in a radio station, the song is automatically added to a playlist for that station. To do it again just add another song. You can either enjoy this playlist or forget about it. Regardless, you now have another place to find music you already love. You can manually remove these tracks from the playlist or download them to your device.
Want more content to enjoy in a playlist? Just click “Add similar songs” and Pandora will use a special algorithm to introduce new content based on what’s already there.
For example, I thumbed up five songs from the Classic Rock Radio station, which automatically created a new playlist. These songs included “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, and “House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals.
After clicking “Add similar songs,” Pandora added five additional tracks from groups like The Mamas & The Papas and Lynyrd Skynyrd. A good match, no?
There’s a similar solution for when you want to create a manual playlist. After you add a few songs, and with some help from the Music Genome Project, Pandora Premium will add similar songs with just a click of a button. That way, you’ll always have music playing.
5. Pandora Premium’s Sleek New Interface
While some services like to pack lots of information on a single screen, Pandora Premium takes a different approach. Its main pages are intuitive and approachable, while its “Now Playing” page is just beautiful, as you can see here:
Throughout, you’ll find menus and controls that just seem to make sense.
6. Pandora Premium Keeps It Family Friendly
Pandora Premium has recognized that explicit music isn’t for everyone. Because of this, it allows you to remove this content from Pandora Premium radio stations and search. Just toggle “Allow explicit content” to the Off position under your account settings.
What’s Missing From Pandora Premium
There are two things you won’t see on Pandora Premium.
The first is exclusive albums and content. As Pandora CEO Tim Westergren told The Verge:
That’s not a focus for us. I don’t really think that’s a winning strategy for anybody — either services or the artist or labels.
Second is the unique Autoplay feature that made Rdio great. With Autoplay, you could keep the music playing by auto-starting a station based on what was recently played. That way, the music would never end unless and until you hit Pause. Luckily, Autoplay is scheduled to arrive in a future Pandora Premium update.
Give Pandora Premium a Spin
I’m pleasantly surprised by Pandora Premium and plan on continuing to use it through my free 60-day trial. It offers a refreshing new way to listen to music legally.
For long-time Pandora Radio users, I would strongly recommend Pandora Premium. It provides a familiar setup with lots of new goodies. Subscribers to other premium services should also take Pandora’s new service out for a test drive. It might not provide the perfect fit, but, depending on your preferences, it could still be worth your time and consideration.
Pandora Premium is being rolled out gradually. To grab yourself an invite, be sure to visit the official Pandora Premium website. Existing Pandora Plus users will be offered six months of Pandora Premium for free. Non-Pandora Plus users will receive a two-month free trial.
Are you planning on trying Pandora Premium? Please let us know in the comments below.