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PANDORA Discovery Den SXSW
Singer Jacquees performs onstage during the PANDORA Discovery Den SXSW on March 18, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Rachel Murray—Getty Images for Pandora

Pandora's New Features Make It a Much Better Spotify Rival

Mar 13, 2017

Pandora is launching a new paid streaming service that includes the ability to search for music by track or album, a feature that could help it go toe-to-toe with competitors like Spotify and Apple Music.

The service, called Pandora Premium, will cost $9.99 per month and is launching in the coming weeks. Some users will be invited to a free trial starting March 15.

Pandora was previously based around music "stations" built around particular artists or albums. A $4.99/month option let users skip ads, jump to the next song, replay tracks, and download stations for offline listening. But until now, Pandora had not offered an option to search for particular music on demand, like you can with Spotify or Apple Music.

With competitors like Apple, Spotify, Amazon and Google all offering similarly priced streaming music services, it's getting harder and harder for newcomers to differentiate their services. Pandora is banking on its music analysis program, the Music Genome Project, to offer listeners something unique. The company is promoting features like an enhanced search engine and playlists that automatically populate based on your listening habits as standout features. Users can, for example, start a playlist with just a couple of songs and then tap an "Add Similar Songs" button to fill out the rest of the list. Pandora also claims that its search engine is capable of surfacing more accurate results that get smarter over time.

Other services, like Spotify, rely more heavily on human-curated playlists based on mood and genre.

Pandora's new Premium tier includes a playlist that consists of every song you've ever "thumbs-upped" on one of Pandora's radio stations. As is the case with competing services like Spotify, users will be able to download albums and playlists to continue listening without an Internet connection.

The announcement comes as the music streaming space is becoming more competitive, with companies like Spotify, Apple, and Amazon vying for new memberships. Spotify has launched new features aimed at improving curation over the past year, such as Daily Mix, a series of playlists that includes favorite songs and new tracks based on a user's tastes, and Release Radar, which compiles new songs from a listener's favorite artists. Apple, meanwhile, is focusing on offering exclusive content from popular artists like Drake to lure in users. Amazon also launched a new streaming music service in October that only costs $7.99 for Prime subscribers, a discount off the common $9.99 price

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