Apple® today announced iTunes Radio™, a free Internet radio service featuring over 200 stations and an incredible catalog of music from the iTunes Store®, combined with features only iTunes® can deliver. ‘The biggest audience for online radio is the audience who hasn’t tried it yet’ Not the Pandora audience, not the Spotify audience, but the “everyone else” who listens to music on their iGadgets and Android devices and desktops who may never have bothered with the incremental “work” required to download and use a specialized app or platform but who nevertheless are iTunes users.
When you tune into iTunes Radio on your iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch®, Mac®, PC or Apple TV®, you’ll have access to stations inspired by the music you already listen to, Featured Stations curated by Apple and genre-focused stations that are personalized just for you. iTunes Radio evolves based on the music you play and download. The more you use iTunes Radio and iTunes, the more it knows what you like to listen to and the more personalized your experience becomes. iTunes Radio also gives you access to exclusive “first listen” premieres from top selling artists, Siri® integration, plus the ability to tag or buy anything you hear with just one click.
“iTunes Radio is an incredible way to listen to personalized radio stations which have been created just for you,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “It’s the music you love most and the music you’re going to love, and you can easily buy it from the iTunes Store with just one click.” iTunes Radio offers music fans access to thousands of new songs every week, as well as serving up exclusive music from new and popular artists before you hear them anywhere else. Whether it’s an exclusive single from an up-and-coming band or a pre-release stream of an entire album, iTunes Radio has it all. iTunes Radio will also be home to special events including live streams direct from the iTunes Festival in London and other exclusive iTunes Sessions.
Coming this fall, iTunes Radio will offer you an incredibly personalized experience on day one based on your listening history and past purchases from iTunes. In addition, if you’re listening to a song you like from iTunes Radio or your music library you will be able to have a station built around those. It’s easy to create and customize stations based on whatever you want to hear. Search for artists, songs, or genres, and iTunes Radio will instantly build a station around your choice. Let Siri make your listening experience even more fun. Ask Siri “Who plays that song?” or “Play more like this” and Siri will make it happen. Say something like “Play Jazz Radio” or ask for any of your existing favorite stations and genres. Shape your stations by telling Siri what you like and don’t like, or tell Siri to pause, stop or skip. You can also have Siri add songs to your Wish List to download later.
iTunes Radio is ad-supported and free for everyone. iTunes Match℠ users get iTunes Radio ad-free, so instead of hearing the occasional ad on iTunes Radio, iTunes Match makes your listening completely ad-free. With iTunes Match, all your music—even songs you’ve imported from CDs—are stored in iCloud®. So iTunes Radio can use information about your entire music collection to make your stations even more personalized. iTunes Match costs $24.99 for a year.
CEO of streaming radio platform Bloom.fm has moved to temper expectations saying that the new service is unlikely to offer anything new. Oleg Fomenko suggests that iRadio will be more about maintaining iTunes’ download volumes rather than revolutionising the streaming content marketplace, which he says is not at the heart of Apple’s proposition. “This is all about selling more downloads and more devices, which is perfectly fine but let’s not kid ourselves that this is going to add anything new to what’s already out there in the music marketplace,” says Fomenko in a piece handed to Music Week.
Ahead of this evening’s anticipated launch of Apple’s new iRadio streaming service, a few thoughts on what it really means for our industry and UK consumers. We all love Apple; their devices are amazing and they have changed the way we all think about and interact with the digital world. What they have achieved through creating a vibrant & successful music download market through iTunes is also to be hugely admired. However, is iRadio really going to be a game-changer? It’s likely that this is going to be an ad-funded model. Apple’s vast user-base will undoubtedly guarantee healthy traffic and as such the service will be an attractive proposition for advertisers, but will this create significant and sustainable revenue for rights holders and artists? We’ve heard talk of the major labels securing attractive deals and healthy revenue shares from Apple but the stand-alone viability of an ad-funded model still remains to be proven.
Everyone agrees that the £1 per download model is in-decline and that £10 per month streaming subscriptions have failed to gain mass-market traction. Streaming radio, expensive on demand subscriptions and paid for downloads do not reflect how people consume music today. They want total control over what they listen to at an affordable price. The combination of restricted streaming radios and paid for downloads doesn’t satisfy this need, neither does the standard £10 per month on-demand services. Apple will not risk cannibalising its iTunes sales with this new offering. iRadio might well be a useful tool to maintain iTunes download volumes but streaming access is not at the heart of its proposition. This is all about selling more downloads and more devices, which is perfectly fine but let’s not kid ourselves that this is going to add anything new to what’s already out there in the music marketplace.
The £1 per track download model has driven many to music piracy and a reliance on free on-demand sources of music like YouTube. We believe that owning music is actually an inconvenience and we want to get more people paying for music again. For £1 on Bloom.fm you can get our entry-level monthly subscription which gives you access to 20 songs of your choice, to enjoy and swap when you fancy something new. It’s a much more natural way to enjoy music. On a positive note Apple’s marketing muscle will raise the visibility of streaming radio, but it is not introducing anything new. We welcome the role it will play in education, but it looks like the true innovation in digital music will have to continue coming from young companies that don’t have a legacy business to protect. At Bloom.fm we’re focused purely on giving music fans the best possible music experience on their phone and creating an attractive proposition for mass-market consumers, rights owners and artists.
Oleg Fomenko: Co-Founder and CEO of Bloom.fm