Pandora caps monthly free tunes on mobiles to 40 hours

Pandora users streaming free tunes all month long may find that today is the day the music died: Pandora(s P) is limiting its free monthly service to 40 hours. Don’t worry though, the free tunes start up again the following month or you can choose to pay a small fee for to enjoy music for the remainder of the month. Why the cap and fee? Rising per-track royalty rates, Pandora said in a blog post from Wednesday evening:

“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.”

According to the company, the impact is limited to just 4 percent of all users, which is surprisingly low. Perhaps more folks use the free streaming on desktops or laptops connected via Wi-Fi as opposed to smartphone and tablet users on costly mobile broadband networks.

Regardless of how people use the music service, pricing is understandably a challenge: Record label fees are negotiated at set royalty rates for a given time, but Pandora has no control over the demand for or growth of its service. The small $0.99 fee to continue music past the 40 hours in a given month seems reasonable to me, and I say that as a paying Pandora subscriber. I pay $36 a year for unlimited, ad-free music through Pandora mainly because I access it through multiple methods: my laptop, phone, tablet and even my television and car, both of which have integrated Pandora apps.