With increased competition from Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Beats Music and plenty of other streaming music services, Apple took a step away from its subscription-free iTunes Store and launched iTunes Radio in September of last year. But, as usual, it was originally only available for US listeners. Or at least until now.
iTunes Radio is a free, ad-supported recommmendation-engine, similar to Pandora. Unlike Spotify or other subscription-services, you won’t be able to listen to whatever song you want for free, but instead you’ll be relying on Apple’s music algorithms to guess what you want to listen to next, after you choose a starter genre, playlist, or artist.
One of the highlights of the service, though, is Apple’s own curated playlists, which aren’t chosen by a computer but are instead hand-picked by iTunes staff and guest editors. Like Spotify’s featured playlists section, this can include time-specific releases, such as INXS playlists to coincide with the Network 7 INXS mini-series. Or it’ll also include iTunes top-10s, moods, and year lists, such as a playlist featured now focusing on 1984 (probably linked to the anniversary of Apple’s famous Superbowl commercial for the launch of the Macintosh).
And as seen in the US with albums from Eminem, Daft Punk, or Lady Gaga, we’ll also be getting iTunes First Play, where you can stream select new release album for free.
It is ad-supported, so expect the usual limitations, such as skips, as well as the usual annoying ads we’ve seen in Rdio, Spotify and Pandora’s free offerings. But hopefully Apple can get a wider range of ads than their competitors.
If you can’t stand the ads, like me, there’s also the option of subscribing to iTunes Match for $34.99, which will backup your library to iCloud, allowing wireless syncing of music with your iOS devices, and also give you an ad-free iTunes Radio experience.
With Australia’s increasingly saturated streaming-music market, it’ll be interesting to see whether Apple can gain any traction with what is a more basic service. But also expect a lot of attention to the curated playlists, with Australia now being the only other market in the world to get the service. I’ll be staying tuned.