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Pandora opens up on-demand music to free & Plus subscribers

Pandora is gradually rolling out on-demand music to listeners without a Premium subscription, putting it more direct competition with Spotify, and offering at least one advantage over Apple Music.

People with a Plus or free ad-based subscription can stream songs or albums after watching a 15-second video. Unlike Spotify, which has ad breaks at regular intervals, Pandora will keep remaining playback ad-free until a person searches for new music or clicks on a related link in email or social media.

Pandora is best known as a radio service, which uses songs, artists, and a unique voting-based algorithm to generate highly-personalized stations. The on-demand Premium tier had a soft launch in March before going wide in April.

Premium costs $9.99 per month or $109.89 per year. Spotify has long had an ad-based on-demand option, and while it has struggled to convert more of those people into Premium customers — who generate better revenue — having a free tier has also hooked in people who might otherwise try the competition or not pay for streaming music.

Apple Music is free only for the first three months, after which an individual subscription costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year. The latter option is available only through gift cards or iOS subscription settings.