T-Mobile customers just got two new perks — a free subscription to the ad-free version of Pandora’s radio service and elite status at Live Nation concerts — as the carrier ramps up competition with its peers.
The third-largest U.S. wireless service provider announced on Wednesday that its customers will, starting at the end of the month, receive access to Pandora Plus, which is an ad-free, track-skippable version of Pandora’s signature Internet radio service usually costing $4.99 a month. (It is not to be confused with Pandora Premium, which is a $9.99-a-month subscription that offers on-demand streaming à la Spotify.) Through an “exclusive multi-year partnership” with Live Nation, T-Mobile is also offering its users access to special reserved tickets at sold-out events, discounted tickets at select concerts and other benefits like fast-track venue entry and free lawn chairs.
“We spend a lot of time looking at customer data and know that our customers spend huge amounts of their time streaming music, and we always try to play into the sweet spot of what customers want,” Nick Drake, T-Mobile’s executive vice president of marketing and experience, tells Rolling Stone. The Pandora partnership is meant to deliver on those desires: “Customers primarily listen to music on their phones, and that’s what we do, so it seemed like a very natural fit for us to partner with the biggest music listening platform.”
The news may feel a bit like déjà vu, given Spotify and Samsung’s announced partnership last week that makes Spotify the official music service provider for all Samsung phones and other devices, with the app being rolled into the installation process. Similarly, Pandora and AT&T struck a deal in June that gives Pandora Premium to customers in AT&T’s upper-tier unlimited plan as a free add-on; those customers can also choose to get Apple Music instead. And speaking of Apple Music: That streaming platform is also being given away for free for six months to Verizon customers, per a deal between the two earlier this summer. Tidal and Sprint have a deal allowing the carrier’s customers to access Tidal content as well.
Ties between smartphone corporations and digital music companies are the new normal — and they’re ramping up fast, which some attribute to the looming consolidation of the music and media industries in the streaming era. The only distinguishing factors between the various music-telecom deals right now seem to be how many people get which perks.
T-Mobile, for instance, offers universal accessibility with its Pandora deal. “The other guys offered it only to their premium customers,” Drake says. “You had to have a special bundle or something like that to secure those benefits. We did it the completely opposite way. This is for everybody — we wanted to democratize the benefit. We want to treat every customer like they’re a rock star.” The Live Nation benefits, which include reserved seating to around 400 events next year, are also available to all of T-Mobile’s 75 million customers.
The partnership currently gives the Pandora Plus subscription to T-Mobile users free for one year, but executives hint at more to come. In a statement, Pandora’s CEO Roger Lynch said that “this is just the first step in a larger strategic partnership between T-Mobile and Pandora, and listeners should “expect to hear more.”