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Pandora has announced its $5 subscription service

Like regular Pandora, but without ads and with more control.

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 - Day 2
Pandora CEO Tim Westergren
Steve Jennings / Getty
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Earlier this week, Pandora signed two of the three big music labels to deals that will let it launch new streaming music services.

Now it is launching one of them: Pandora Plus, an “ad-free radio experience with dramatically increased functionality,” which will sell for $5 a month.

Most Pandora users won’t be able to listen to the service today: A Pandora rep says the service is going live to about 1 percent of its user base today and won’t fully roll out to all of its users for another month or so.

In the meantime, Pandora is still negotiating with Warner Music Group, the remaining big music label that hasn’t signed a deal with the streaming service. Sources say the two sides have an agreement in principle, but were still papering the deal late last night — apparently Pandora didn’t want to wait before it announced the new service.

Pandora also wants to launch a $10-a-month service, but that one may not launch for months.

The new $5 service replaces Pandora’s existing $5 ad-free service and has two new features: The ability to skip as many songs as you want and the option to download a limited number of songs for offline listening.

Pandora’s hope — and the music industry’s — is that the $5 service acts as a bridge between Pandora’s free service and the $10-a-month services sold by rivals like Spotify and Apple Music.

Those services also offer ad-free music, but unlike Pandora’s web radio service, they allow listeners to pick any song they want, whenever they want to hear it. Pandora’s $10 service should work the same way.

For years, Pandora has been able to function without signing direct deals with the big music labels by taking advantage of “statutory” rates offered to web radio services.

But it has spent months trying to sign deals with the labels that would give it more flexibility.

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