Along with a rather anemic product announcement keynote, Tim Cook reiterated the upcoming release of iOS 7, and with it iTunes Radio. While some have called Apple ‘late to market’ with iTunes Radio, I would say they are launching at the perfect time. Some of the reasons include the established user base of iTunes, and profit struggles of streaming services.
Here are ten reasons to get excited for iTunes Radio:
- iTunes Integration: If I am listening to something in iTunes and want to go to Slacker, I have to stop, exit, flip pages and launch. With iTunes Radio you just switch over naturally.
- Pandora Has Stagnated: After their initial burst, many users complain that Pandora has failed to make much ground. As Spotify added radio and Slacker added on-demand and both added huge amounts of songs to their libraries, Pandora added … um, nothing?
- iTunes Exclusives: The almost weekly iTunes exclusives that offer pre-release streaming seem to tie in perfectly with iTunes Radio.
- iTunes Users Already Love Streaming Radio: iTunes users are more likely to pay for streaming music than other mobile users (which is just part of the “iOS users buy, Android users don’t” trend). Lowering the entry point will only bring over more users.
- Massive Amount of iTunes Accounts: 600 million credit-card laden iTunes accounts latched to iOS devices. Think about it … you know Apple is. This also provides loads of incentive for Apple to work hard to totally own the market.
- 20 Times the Music Library: Pandora has about 1 million songs, Apple has loads more. More choice … is better. Because it is both depth AND breadth that Apple has over Pandora. The reason I haven’t installed Pandora on a device in a while is because they are totally useless with music I care about, and that hasn’t changed.
- iTunes Users Who Never Cared About Streaming: There are loads of users who simply go and buy a song they like on their iPhone/iPod/iPad, who will now discover that they can hear it through iTunes Radio, along with other music they will also like. That is how my wife became a streaming fanatic …
- Direct iOS 7 Tie-in: I love when a contextual menu will provide me useful options, but hate when it ends up slowing things down (like earlier Android devices). Tight integration as iOS now has with Facebook and Twitter is very efficient, and will make using iTunes Radio a dream.
- Better iAd Targeting: Because Apple has so much play information from their customers, they can target efficiently. Even if you are not a fan of ads (I am not), we have come to accept them, because they defray or eliminate costs, which is important here because …
- It’s Free!: you get loads of play time, no limit on ‘skips’ and so on. For free.
Think about it: better integration, massive library, loads of music information from hundreds of millions of customers – it all adds up to Apple making a huge impact on streaming music.
By now I’m sure you think I sound like an Apple Fanboy … but like anything else there are always drawbacks. So here are five reasons to be wary of iTunes Radio.
- Android Owns ‘Reach’: regardless of how much more money Apple makes, nearly half of US smartphones and almost 75% of smartphones worldwide run Android. Since the likelihood of Apple creating an iTunes Radio Android app is … small … that inherently limits their ability to penetrate the market.
- Apple is all about selling hardware: you can never forget this. Apple is an integrated hardware and OS company that makes great software to service those products. They are not a media company, as the declining effort placed on iTunes as iPad sales have declined shows. If iTunes Radio isn’t bolstering sales (or stopping the migration anyway) it will wither and die.
- Entrenched competition: As I noted, Pandora is in many ways the worst option, and regularly ‘loses’ comparisons. Yet they are the largest service … by a lot. I have no clue why users are loyal – but they are. Same with YouTube and Sirius XM.
- Record companies have shown they will screw Apple for power: When Apple wanted to get rid of DRM, the record companies united in a power play to get higher prices by giving Amazon DRM-free music to gain leverage. If they see Apple getting too strong, they will act – and once again WE will pay!
- Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize downloads: while iTunes music sales are not a huge portion of Apple’s overall portfolio (~$6.9 billion per year), it is still a lot of money – and highly profitable. The end goal here is to convert streams to purchases.
So what do you think? Will iTunes Radio be a rampant success, or another streaming product that fades away like Ping and Mobile Me?