Shares of Pandora (NYSE:P) closed slightly lower on an otherwise upbeat trading day yesterday, and it's easy to see why.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) finally introduced a new music streaming service, and Pandora -- for now -- watches over the country's most popular music streaming service.
Google All Access offers a bit of everything. It's a provider of personalized radio, just like Pandora and Sirius XM's (NASDAQ:SIRI) recently introduced MySXM. It's an on demand and playlist platform, just like Spotify.
Google is big. Google is smart. Google is rich. If streaming tunes is Big G's next hobby, how can Pandora survive?
Well, the most important thing working in Pandora's favor is price.
Google is really gunning for Spotify, with its identical $9.99 a month cover charge. Those signing up to Google Access between now and the end of June can lock in a $7.99 monthly rate.
Pandora is mostly consumed as a free application. Just 12% of Pandora's revenue is derived from subscriptions, and that translates into roughly 1% of Pandora's 70.1 million active monthly users. If that 99% majority was interested in paying up for a better streaming experience, don't you think that they would have already shelled out money to Pandora for ad-free music?
For once, Pandora's growing army of earbud-donning freeloaders is a good thing.
History has proven that there are two different types of music listeners. Would Sirius XM have grown to nearly 25 million premium subscribers if Pandora was enough? Would Pandora have seen its audience grow 35% since Spotify's arrival last year if money wasn't an issue? Google, Sirius XM, and Spotify have all thrived in this climate.
If anyone takes a hit here it would Spotify, with the similar model.
Pandora's fine -- for now.