Apple Announces iTunes Radio

Back in Jobs’s day, Apple was basically revolutionizing the way we consume music on a quarterly basis: iPod, iTunes, iPhone … innovation after innovation, each of them altering the space forevermore. Now, though? Well, it’s early, but if iTunes Radio is any indication, the new bosses are not exactly on the same level as the old boss.

During his keynote presentation at WWDC 2013 (Apple’s annual conference for its developers), Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled his company’s new operating system, along with the iTunes Radio music platform. Which, as far as I can tell, is basically … Pandora. But a bit more sales-focused. And it arrives only eight years after the launch of Pandora! Wired has the goods:

The new service, which launches this fall, is a station-based radio player. Pick an artist like Led Zeppelin, start a new “station” for that artist, and iTunes radio will begin playing a songs by that band, with other songs from similar bands (The Rolling Stones, The Kinks) mixed in. It resembles Pandora Radio more so than on-demand services like Rdio and Spotify, where you can pick the exact songs or albums you want to hear. Like Pandora, iTunes Radio chooses songs for you using algorithms. You can create new stations, and rate the songs you like or dislike as they stream. It learns your preferences and modifies the station to better suit your tastes.

The Apple service will be ad-supported and offer the user prompts to buy through iTunes. This announcement comes less than a month after that of Google’s new music subscription service, which also wasn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, yet sounds both preferable to and more interesting than iTunes Radio. I’ll be re-upping my Spotify subscription right about now. Maybe investing, too.

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Comments (7)
  1. I use iTunes Match to keep my vast gigs of music on the Cloud and off my iPhone’s piddly hard drive, so I’ll probably be using this over Pandora simply since it’ll be ad-free for me; however, I totally agree that this isn’t exactly blazing any new trails. Then again, I can see why Apple’s doing it: Somewhere along the line, Apple went from being a company that seamlessly combined stellar hardware with smooth-ass software to being a company that made stellar hardware and let Google do the software heavy-lifting. They’d probably like to reclaim the dual crown.

    Also, I’ll just shamelessly plug Rdio over Spotify here: Spotify’s mobile user interface feels like it was cobbled together by a guy who only listened to music in the form of playlists. I have no idea why the latter is more popular than the former, unless knowing in real-time that your aunt is jamming out to the latest Taylor Swift single is why you subscribed to a streaming service.

    (Admittedly, it’s been months since I ditched Spotify for Rdio — they may have improved things since then).

  2. i wonder if it’ll be the new pandora.. hope so, but i konw itll take time.

    thanks for the update!

  3. Unless it helps artists get more compensation, I kind of hope this fails. Google and Apple are getting too big and creepy.

    • In a roundabout way, it actually will help artists get more compensation, insofar as it’s basically a sales tool: the iTunes Radio endgame isn’t to provide a streaming service, but to more effctively market music as product and drive iTunes sales. Listeners will be encouraged and given the opportunity to buy music more immediately than they do at Spotify or Pandora, where the service is primarily trying to sell itself. That’s a net positive for the artist, probably, assuming it’s an effective sales tool. For the user, though, it’s kind of dubious, for a bunch of reasons. Furthermore, iTunes royalties aren’t exactly great, and it’s not as though iTunes has the artist in mind when trying to sell songs at .99 apiece. But in theory, Artist X stands to make more money via iTunes Radio than he does via Pandora, albeit indirectly.

      • It’s actually excellent for artists! It plays music, and while its playing you have the option of not only purchasing the current song without even leaving the app (just click the buy button in the upper right corner) you also have the option to view the entire album and buy any song or the entire album. You never have to navigate to another app..you never have to enter any other info…it is all in one place…meaning there are no barriers to the artist getting paid. Also, every station has a “discovery” mode which will mix in more independent artists and obscure tracks…so if you want to find some new music and stray from the top 40 you can tell it to do that and get introduced to music you otherwise would have never heard.

        To the person that said they hope it fails….what’s your problem? Why would you want an independent avenue for millions of new listeners to fail????? I’m guessing you are too cool for corporate sales tools. But for musicians that use their music as a way to feed their families, this is a wonderful new tool!!

  4. Streaming Music Services need to step it up in a serious way and heres why: merwan.kinja.com

  5. This looks OK but it’s hardly groundbreaking. For streaming indie music that’s programmed by an actual person (me!) please allow me to shamelessly plug Future Perfect Radio on AccuRadio.com. http://bit.ly/FuturePerfectRadio

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