Pandora Premium comes to Google Assistant-powered devices

Pandora Premium is coming to Google Home, Mini, and Max devices, and other smart speakers and screens with Google Assistant built-in, the company announced this morning. The integration means listeners who pay for Pandora’s on-demand music service will be able to search and play any song, album, or playlist, just by asking Google, and can even search by lyrics, play their personalized “mood” playlists, and take other actions using their voice.

For example, Google Assistant users will be able to thumbs up and thumbs down tracks on Pandora, skip tracks, create new stations, or play a song again, using voice commands.

The service can also be set as the default on Google Home, so you don’t have to specify to play the songs via Pandora when issuing commands.

Support for Pandora Premium on Google Home has been long-awaited. Pandora Plus and Pandora’s free service have been available on Google Home since November 2016.

The Premium service, however, is Pandora’s true Spotify competitor, offering a more robust feature set in addition to on-demand music.

Access to personalized soundtracks is one of Pandora Premium’s newer features, and a potential selling point for the company’s top-tier service, along with this new Google Assistant integration.

In an effort to challenge Spotify, Pandora this spring rolled out its own set of personalized playlists based on listening behavior and other factors, built using its Music Genome. This made Pandora capable of creating over 60 personalized playlists. Most users will only see a subset of those – like “party soundtracks, or those for moods like “happy” or “rainy days,” or those for various genres of music they like. Now these, too, can stream over Google Assistant-powered devices.

The ability to search by lyrics is another benefit to using Pandora Premium on Google Assistant devices – and an area where Spotify is glaringly absent. Not only does Spotify not offer lyrics search, it doesn’t even offer lyrics. And we’re hearing that it has no plans to launch this feature anytime soon, though it continues to test this. (For example.)

Meanwhile, Spotify’s rivals are offering search by lyrics, including Amazon Music – which lets you do lyrics searches using Alexa – and Apple, which is rolling out lyrics search in the latest version of Apple Music. Many Spotify users are beginning to notice this missing feature, and regularly complain. At some point, Spotify’s inability to keep up with the market on voice (it has just barely managed a voice search button) and lyrics could give competitors an edge, along with Spotify’s lack of hardware, like Apple’s HomePod or Amazon’s Echo.

Apple Music, for instance, is now ahead of Spotify in North America, according to statements made by Apple CEO Tim Cook during the last earnings call.

Pandora’s potential is more of a mixed bag. There’s a growing market of those who pay for Pandora’s service. The company reported in July. It added 351,000 paying customers across both Premium and the mid-level tier, Pandora Plus, in the last quarter, bringing the total paying customer base to 6 million. That’s up 23% year-over-year. But its total active user base was down 6% year-over-year to 71.4 million.

But Pandora is addressing the needs of cross-platform support, in an effort to meet users anywhere they want to stream. It now supports over 2,000 connected devices including TVs, smart speakers, game consoles, streaming players, and more. These days, its listeners are increasingly using Pandora through voice-activated devices – up nearly 50% since last year, the company says.

Pandora is offering a free 90-day trial of Premium to Google Home users via the Google Home app on Android or the Play Store.

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