Pandora to Cap Free Mobile Listening, Cites Skyrocketing Royalties

We may be seeing a (very small) tipping point in the music streaming wars for one of the biggest players in that space; Pandora, long a staple of the free, online, unlimited music “radio”, is going to cap free mobile listening to 40 hours per user per month.

Pandora points out on its blog that such a cap will only affect about 4% of its customers and that the average user barely listens to half that many hours a month across all devices. Still, it’s notable that users will face caps on the streaming service.

According to the post, Pandora had to do something to compensate for rising royalty rates, which apparently have ballooned 25% over the last three years and are expected to continue upward another 16% over the next two.


There are options, of course; users can still enjoy unlimited free desktop streaming, pay $0.99 to maintain mobile listening for the remainder of the month in which they hit their cap; or just subscribe to Pandora One (which is ad free and offers higher-quality audio).

Options for streaming music and other audio are numerous. For example, in addition to myriad podcasts available directly from websites or app stores, there’s the likes of Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, and Spotify. Google may be cooking up its own music streaming service, too. That’s some stiff competition, and Pandora has a fight on its hands; being forced to cap listeners isn’t exactly good technique.