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Pandora previews Premium, its Spotify rival

Its free digital radio is here to stay, but a paid tier next year will unlock a full playground of songs that Pandora wants to specialize for you.


After years on the sidelines and months of teasing, Pandora is finally giving glimpses of its Spotify-rival subscription.

At a presentation Tuesday night and in a blog post Wednesday, Pandora provided peeks at its coming Premium tier, a full-fledged on-demand music subscription similar to Spotify and Apple Music. The new tier will launch early next year and cost about $10 a month, and Pandora will focus on tailoring music discovery, building playlists and on-demand searches uniquely for you.

Pandora hopes the launch will mark the completion of its rebirth.

The company was a vanguard of mobile streaming with its digital version of traditional radio. Despite its headstart, Pandora was mired in rigid licensing rules that limited listener's control over what songs played, while competitors like Spotify and Apple Music struck more modern deals that allowed customers to listen to whatever they want, as much as they want.

Though it struggled competitively in recent years, Pandora still benefits from more than a decade collecting thumbs-up and -down data about music tastes. It says it will put that know-how to use with Premium.

If you've already used Pandora as a free listener, your thumbs data will create unique playlists instantly as a subscriber, and the service has a button at the bottom of any playlists you start with suggestions of similar songs you can add automatically. Searches will be reactive to what Pandora already believes you like and might be looking for. Premium subscribers can earmark music widely for offline availability, and subscribers can toggle on an autoplay feature that will keep similar songs playing one after another.

Premium will join Pandora's free, ad-supported radio product and a revamped $5 subscription that strips out ads called Plus.