Launching into the stratosphere of instant auditory gratification, Apple recently announced the arrival of their digital music streaming, iTunes Radio. The new service is available via any Apple device, including iPhone, iTunes (Mac and PC) and Apple TV.
Will iTunes Radio be enough to lure listeners from similar services like Rdio, Pandora, Google Play and Spotify?
Hitting listener’s ears on 11 February, iTunes Radio offers a range of Featured Stations; from Hot Today to Love Songs, as well as specific focus stations, like The Beatles or Twitter #music.
Naturally, you also have the ability to create your own stations, based on your musical interests. Chose a track or an artist to begin with, then iTunes Radio will do the rest.
‘Tuning’ a station is done by inspecting the currently playing track, then determining the next track selection by moving a tuning slider between the indicators of Hits, Variety or Discovery.
You can also select a Play More Like This option, or a Never Play This option. It’s about as simple as it gets, and should help you fine-tune a station to your particular liking. Of course, there’s no accounting for the taste of the mighty computer database that supplies the information, so prepare for the occasional musical brain fart.
Right about now you’re likely wondering why you should shift from your existing music streaming service to iTunes Radio. After all, we’ve had our choice of services for a long time now. Sure, the breadth of services available in Australia has invariably been hamstrung by archaic copyright and broadcast laws (did someone say, ‘The Middle Ages?’) or simply territorial disputes between distributors, but we’re now firmly in the throes of a buyer’s market. What makes this new service any different?
Not a lot. The basic service, which does have advertising, is free. For an ad-free version you’ll need to subscribe to iTunes Match ($34.99 per year); a service that syncs your iTunes library between Apple devices.
Will iTunes Radio be enough to lure listeners from similar services like Rdio, Pandora, Google Play and Spotify? From the point of view of price, quite likely. An All Access Google Play account, or a Spotify Premium account, will both set you back $11.99 a month; an Rdio Unlimited account is a similarly priced $12.90 per month.
The service that comes closest to iTunes Radio, both in function and fee, is Pandora One. At US$36 per year, Pandora’s internet radio service attracts around 55 millions listeners, netting the company some US$16m in profit. Apple will need to work hard to build up that kind of loyalty, in order to turn over a similar amount of advertising revenue.
What does make it pretty sweet is the mobile integration with Siri. For those wanting to live out their very own Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) fantasy, just fire up iTunes Radio and chat to Siri about song selection and your music taste. She’ll help you remember songs you like and fine-tune stations. It’s a needless extra, but it’s still pretty neat.