Pandora Introduces 40-Hour Monthly Listening Limit On Free Mobile Streaming

Fans of streaming Internet radio service Pandora have long been devoted to the free mobile listening available across a number of devices. Sure, you might end up yelling at Pandora when Miley Cyrus comes on your Taylor Swift station (cough), but overall it’s a good fit for many listeners. And, it’s free! But starting this week, Pandora says it’ll limit free mobile listening for users to 40 hours per month.

In a blog post on the company site, Pandora founder Tim Westergren says the limit will be imposed as a way to deal with the rising cost of music royalties. The musicians you enjoy on a daily basis need to get paid, in other words.

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.

However as Westergren notes, most people won’t even notice the limit is there, as he says less than 4% of the total monthly active listeners will hit 40 hours in a month. He says the average Pandora listener spends about 20 hours listening to music with the service across all devices during that time.

Anyone who does bump up against that threshhold can still listen on laptops and desktop computers, pay $0.99 for unlimited listening for the rest of that month or subscribe to Pandora One for no ads and unlimited listening.

Westergren adds that any user approaching that 40-hour limit will get plenty of warning before it happens, so you won’t be cut off in the middle of belting out whatever that Miley song is you’ve actually come to like.

A note to our listeners [Pandora]