Pandora, playing catch-up to Spotify, offers free music with ads

Pick a song. Any song. It's almost Christmas, so, how about a song of the season like "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues?

Now, if you were using Pandora to listen to music, and you didn't want to wait through a playlist of who knows what in the hopes of hearing Shane McGowan and Kirsty McColl's greatest-ever musical performance, you had to pay $9.99 month for the company's on-demand option, Pandora Premium. With that, you could play whatever you wanted as many times as you'd like.

But there remains a segment of the population that doesn't want to pay for streaming music online. Pandora has long maintained that such a large and loyal listener base that has been able to use Pandora free, but with the occasional audio or video ad popping up. That option hasn't let listeners choose specific songs to hear –– until now.

Pandora has launched a new on-demand music-listening option that will let users choose songs they want to hear, as long as they first watch a 15-second video ad.

If it sounds a lot like a similar offering from Spotify, you're right. Pandora was late to the game with launching an on-demand subscription service, which it finally got off the ground earlier this year with its Pandora Premium option. However, by then, weakening revenue and declines in total users had taken its toll. Pandora's share price faltered, and has dropped by more than 60 percent from a year ago. In June, Pandora sold a 19 percent stake in itself to satellite radio company Sirius XM, and not long after that, co-founder and CEO Tim Westergren left the company. Westergren was eventually replaced by former Sling CEO Roger Lynch.


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