Pandora Sets 40 Hour Monthly Limit on Free Mobile Listening

Pandora Gives People Music and Comedy Anytime, Anywhere

Pandora gives people music and comedy they love anytime, anywhere, through connected devices. Personalized stations launch instantly with the input of a single “seed” – a favorite artist, song or genre. The Music Genome Project, a deeply detailed hand-built musical taxonomy, powers the personalization of Pandora Internet radio by using musicological “DNA” and constant listener feedback to craft personalized stations from a growing collection of hundreds of thousands of recordings. Tens of millions of people turn on Pandora every month to hear music they love.

Pandora is present on more than 200 connected consumer electronic devices ranging from smart-phones to TVs to set-top boxes to Blu-ray players and is able to stream visual, audio, and interactive advertising to computers, smart-phones, iPads, in-home connected devices and even cars.

Pandora has a free service (with ads) and a subscription based service. But if you use Pandora a lot on your phone or tablet, you better keep track of your hours. If you hit 40 hours in 1 month, you will be cut off.

There are a few options:

  • Pay 99 cents for the rest of the month
  • Sign up for the company’s subscription service
  • Listen on your computer or laptop for free

    Pandora is claiming that this will only affect less than 4% of active listeners. If that is the case, then why do this and cause people to panic? Probably to get listeners to go ahead and sign up for their subscription service which is $3.99 a month or $36 a year. Also it’s to overcome rising royalty costs. Pandora, which relies mainly on advertising for revenue, is struggling to grow amid fierce competition from Spotify, Rdio, Slacker Radio, and Sirius XM Radio.

    Here is the official blog post from Pandora:


    This week we will begin communicating directly with a small number of our listeners as we introduce a 40-hour-per-month limit on free mobile listening.

    Most of you reading this will never hit the limit. In fact, it will affect less than 4% of our total monthly active listeners. For perspective, the average listener spends approximately 20 hours listening to Pandora across all devices in any given month.

    That said, limiting listening is a very unusual thing to do, and very contrary to our mission so we wanted to share a quick explanation. Pandora’s per-track royalty rates have increased more than 25% over the last 3 years, including 9% in 2013 alone and are scheduled to increase an additional 16% over the next two years. After a close look at our overall listening, a 40-hour-per-month mobile listening limit allows us to manage these escalating costs with minimal listener disruption.

    For listeners who do hit the limit, we have a variety of options available to keep the music you love flowing. Listen for free for as many hours as desired on desktop and laptop computers; pay $0.99 for unlimited listening for the remainder of that month, or subscribe to Pandora One for unlimited listening and no advertising.

    In short, this is an effort to balance the reality of increasing royalty costs with our desire to maximize access to free listening on Pandora. We will be sure to alert any of our listeners that start getting close to the 40 hour limit. As always, your feedback is welcome.

  • Tim Martin
    Tim Martin is a Technology specialist, who gives us insights into the technology and software that helps us to get through our day. Technology is everywhere, an increasingly pervasive part of our lives. Tim helps us make sense of it in many ways.