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Like iTunes Radio? Prepare to Pay or Switch

Apple has been sending email messages to its customers, informing them that as of 29 January 2016, the company will be discontinuing its free, ad-supported iTunes Radio service. If you’d like to continue listening to your stations, you’ll have to pony up for an Apple Music membership, which starts at $9.99 per month. The sole exception is the Beats 1 radio station, which will remain free for all.

Why the change? The obvious reason is that Apple is getting out of the ad business — the company announced just a few days ago that it’s shutting down the iAd App Network on 30 June 2016. Another reason would be to boost subscriptions to its Apple Music service, which has only about half the paid subscribers as Spotify. Finally, iTunes Radio was available only in the United States and Australia, while Apple Music Radio is offered around the world.

If you don’t want to pay for an Apple Music subscription (and we don’t blame you), there are plenty of alternatives. The most obvious is the original algorithmic radio service: Pandora, which offers both ad-supported and paid tiers. Another good alternative is Songza, which specializes in radio stations tailored to your daily activities, like waking up, showering, and exercising. Finally, the free tier of Spotify gives you unrestricted, ad-supported access to its entire catalog on the desktop, and the mobile version lets you play whatever you like, but only in shuffle mode.


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Comments about Like iTunes Radio? Prepare to Pay or Switch
(Comments are closed.)

Anonymous  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-01-18 19:57
Since apple is so excellent about giving-ith Free v. Fee ( the only difference is a R) and taking away-ith How do I know what I have and do not have any more? All their stuff looks alike after a while $9.99/Month, I can't afford to be charge anything else more, Obamacare is doing that for Apple.
Just say "No" to subscriptions with out representation.

Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-01-19 09:16
When you choose Store > Apple Music in iTunes, if it says Join Apple Music, chances are that you're not subscribed to Apple Music. But the best way to tell is if you're getting a $9.99 charge on your credit card from Apple each month.
George  2016-01-18 20:14
Go to the Apple store and download the myTuner Radio Free app (you can upgrade if you choose to) and you can tune in streaming stations around the globe. So far, it's been working well for both US and European stations.
Mariachi  2016-01-19 00:33
You can also do that in iTunes under the Internet Radio tab (⌘9), which AFAIK is not being removed.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-01-19 09:19
Right, what you're talking about is an Internet radio station, which is either the Internet face of a normal radio station somewhere in the world, or a radio station that "broadcasts" entirely on the Internet but still generates its programming entirely manually.

iTunes Radio is an algorithmically driven feature that, when seeded with a particular song or album or artist, plays similar music.
Brent Bossom  2016-01-18 20:20
Plenty of alternatives? Maybe for you in the US, but not globally. Anyway, I find it hard to fault Apple Music when it has such a massive selection. l really love having access to "everything" for less than the price of an album each month.
Mac Mini Me  2016-01-19 01:12
I'm somewhat confused here. Is the iTunes Radio service the same as the "Internet" tab on iTunes, which offers streaming radio from numerous sources collected under various themes, such as Adult Contemporary / Alternative Rock / Ambient / Blues, etc.? The latter is not ad-supported, so I assume not. (I'm still trundling along with iTunes 11.4 (18), so I may be living in some grandfathered-in reality.)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-01-19 09:20
Nope, iTunes Radio is algorithmically driven to play music similar to a particular song, album, or artist. What you're talking about are radio stations from around the world that happen to make their manually created programming available on the Internet.
Graham Samuel  2016-01-19 06:24
I am an old fogey (tho probably a fairly typical Tidbits reader) and I don't live in the US, so obviously not the target for this service - but I am still intrigued about the IDEA of these radio services. What are they for? There are enormous numbers of internet (and non-internet) radio stations playing all possible varieties of music. Why would I want a kind of fake radio station cobbled together via software? Obviously I have missed the point, but it would be good if someone could explain!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-01-19 09:30
The idea of algorithmically driven music streaming services like iTunes Radio, Pandora, Songza, and others is that you can say, "I'd like to listen to music like Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" and the system would look for "similar" songs (based on on a vast number of variables about the songs and what others have listened to) and come up with Dean Martin's "Mambo Italiano," Brenda Lee's "Everybody Loves Me But You," and other songs from the likes of Harry Belafonte, Buddy Holly, The Drifters, and more. (I asked Spotify to do just this to come up with the examples.)

With Internet radio stations, songs are chosen manually (or perhaps randomly from within some large set). With an excellent DJ who knows that particle genre inside and out, it's certainly possible that a manually generated radio set list would be "better," but in many cases, the selection will be either too obvious or too random. To continue the analogy, if you ask for songs like "Heartbreak Hotel," you probably wouldn't want to get just Elvis songs, and you also wouldn't want it to play the latest Taylor Swift pop song.
Graham Samuel  2016-01-19 11:26
Thanks Adam, that's really clear and I get it now. Because a great deal of what I listen to is classical music, I don't normally think "I wonder if there is other stuff like the symphony I've just been listening to". I suppose I use other criteria for making my own choices. But perhaps I'm being blinkered, so a classically-oriented streaming service - if there is one - might introduce me to new stuff which I wouldn't otherwise have heard. I'll do a bit more research, but I am unlikely to use iTunes Radio after what I've read here and elsewhere.
David Tanner  2016-01-20 03:20
Regarding Spotify, at least in the UK the free service is not only available in shuffle mode. It just plays an advert every few tracks.
Chris Lozac'h  2016-01-24 21:13
The article implicitly suggests that iTunes Radio will _only_ be available with an Apple Music subscription, which in turn implies that the feature will disappear from iTunes Match. (

Hopefully this isn't the case. Anyone know for sure?
Chris Lozac'h  2016-02-08 18:47
Answer, for the record: wtf, they just ripped out half of a service that I've prepaid for a year! OK, on the one hand, it was a small price for rather large value, most of which I'm sure wasn't getting to the artists anyway, so I'm not really complaining…first world problems and all that. (Plus I'm too lazy to go find the fine print and see whether Apple have breached a contract by severing an existing service this drastically.) On the other hand, it feels like class action lawsuit territory. Guess we'll see. :}
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-02-09 09:26
Sorry to hear it. On the upside, you're only out $25. I get the feeling that iTunes Match isn't long for this world…