iTunes Radio is a new service by Apple that allows you to play any song in the iTunes library. You simply enter a song or artist name into iTunes Radio and it starts playing, it then plays songs related to that Song.
So in some ways it’s a bit like iTunes Genius, only instead of being limited to songs in your library you can play any track from the iTunes Store.
It’s a great idea and best of all iTunes radio is completely free. Apple plans to occasionally place ads between tracks, just like a commercial radio station. However, if you purchase iTunes Match (£21.99 per year) then you can use iTunes Radio commercial-free.
The only problem is that iTunes Match is only available to US customers at the moment, leaving those of us in the UK out in the cold. This is a shame although it’s not surprising. As a general rule we tend to see staggered launches for new music and movie services around the globe, so Spotify took a while to get to the US, and the iTunes Store took over a year to move from the US to the UK (it only opened in Hong Kong last year).
Current estimates are that it’ll launch much faster than that, however. And that iTunes Radio Bloomberg claims to have talked to people “in the know” and that iTunes Radio is launched in early 2014 in Canada, the UK and other European countries. Just how early is early 2014 is anybody's guess, but we think it’ll be sooner rather than later.
This isn’t because Apple is tardy, or because of technical challenges. But it’s more to do with licensing deals, these are generally negotiated with the major record labels and Apple has to negotiate with each label for each continent and country. Apple typically starts with the US because it is a US company and that’s where it’s primary market is. Britain, along with Germany and France typically come shortly afterwards.
The iTunes Store launched in April 28, 2003 in the US and June 15, 2004 in the United Kingdom. So that took just over a year to negotiate. iTunes Radio launched in the US in September this year, so we’d expect it to launch in the UK before the end of next year.
There are other services available that perform similar function to iTunes Radio, including Pandora and Rdio. While these are popular services the integration of iTunes radio directly into iTunes on the Mac, and especially into the Music app on the iPhone and iPad must surely be compelling to the music industry. After all Apple is the leading music store and iTunes Radio encourage people to purchase music that they’re listening to.
Apple has a pretty good, if somewhat fractious relationship with the music industry so we think they’ll be able to bring iTunes Radio to the UK pretty quickly.