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Apple Music rival Pandora cuts 7% of US staff despite upturn in subscribers

One of Apple's competitors in the music space, Pandora, has announced plans to lay off 7 percent of its U.S. workers — excluding those at Ticketfly — despite improvements in its paid subscriber base, and plans to launch on-demand streaming.

Pandora now has over 4.3 million paid subscribers, according to TechCrunch. By the end of December the company had added over 375,000 subscribers to its paid tier, Pandora Plus, which costs $5 per month or $54.89 per year for perks like ad-free listening and more skips.

Many more people are likely listening to the service for free, as with Spotify, which has several times the number of free listeners versus Premium customers.

Pandora has faced a tough market in the past few years. While it's often credited with having some of the best algorithms in online radio, the rise of on-demand streaming — in the form of Spotify, and more recently Apple Music — has created serious problems, and forced it to adapt.

Sometime this quarter the company is due to launch Pandora Premium, its own on-demand service. The plan is to differentiate from rivals with more personalization, including smart playlists and a feature called AutoPlay, which will generate a radio station based on a recently-played album or playlist.

Apple Music depends largely on curated content for its stations, though people can create their own stations from songs, albums, or artists in which they use Pandora-like voting to refine track selections.

Last month, Apple announced that its subscription-based Apple Music service surpassed 20 million subscribers, just 17 months after launch. In contrast, rival Spotify took some seven years to reach that same plateau.

Apple has further pushed the service with a redesign of the Music app with iOS 10.2 last month. And it is expected to add a number of scripted television shows to Apple Music later this year — one way to further differentiate itself from competitors like Pandora.