Music streaming service Pandora is working on an offline version so that users can access content from the streamer while on the go. Unlike its main rival Spotify, which has an offline listening option, Pandora customers must remain connected to the internet in order to continue streaming music from the service.
CEO Tim Westergren, who exited the helm of Pandora more than 10 years ago but has recently returned to lead the company, discussed the move while appearing at the Cannes Lions advertising festival. He noted that the company is trying to ascertain what its customers' needs are and how their travels and other mobile activity affect their listening patterns.
"Do they travel a lot on planes? How do we use that information?" Westergren pondered.
How exactly the new offline listening option would be set up is an interesting question, given the differences between Pandora and its on-demand competitors like Spotify and Apple Music. Pandora acts as a radio streaming service rather than an on-demand one.
This means that listeners cannot choose specific songs they would like to hear, but only select from a series of stations organized by genre. There are also stations focused around specific artists, but they mainly play songs by other artists related to the artist chosen, as Pandora is limited to playing only several cuts by any one artist per hour.
Presumably, the offline service would download a selected station or station playlists to a user's device in order to facilitate offline play, but since Pandora has restrictions placed on fast-forwarding and skipping tracks, that may be an obstacle to its implementation.
Pandora has publicly stated that it is developing an on-demand variant of its service. No details have emerged on how the on-demand system would operate, but given the current restrictions on Pandora's airplay, it is possible that the offline service could only be released as an adjunct to that aspect of Pandora's streaming options.
Westergren also shared his thoughts on the recent battle between artists and labels against Google-owned YouTube. Earlier this week, more than 180 prominent artists, along with the three major music labels, signed a petition for YouTube to reform DMCA rules.
"The most important topic is, how [are] the label guys going to navigate the world of their partners?" said Westergren. "With the Google take-down notices, how is a label going to set up the future?"
Pandora's future itself remains uncertain. Some major shareholders of the company have been pushing for its sale, and Westergren has been battling to keep the company independent as it struggles to compete with on-demand services like Spotify and Apple Music, and ultimately, reach profitability.