INXS and The Beatles will each get their own station on iTunes Radio. Photo: Ben Rushton
Apple's launch of iTunes Radio in Australia is just the first volley in the contest for radio streaming dominance, writes Mahesh Sharma.
Starting Tuesday, Australian iTunes users can click a little radio button on iTunes to access over 100 radio stations playing personalised music from Apple's massive song catalogue.
Apple has selected Australia as the first country outside of the United States to launch its highly-anticipated iTunes Radio service, which uses algorithms to track your listening preferences and recommend new and different songs that you might like to hear.
It consists of featured and genre-specific radio stations, tailored to your listening tastes and behaviours.
For example, if you skip a song it won't play similar songs in future; and it also makes predictions about what you might like based on the contents of your music library, and how often you listen to these songs.
"The more you use iTunes Radio and iTunes, the more it knows what you like to listen to and the more personalised your experience becomes. iTunes Radio," Apple said in a statement announcing the launch.
The Beatles and INXS have earned their own stations, and some of the genre-specific channels include iTunes Hits - '80s, '90s, Now, Love Songs, and Workout.
Ads are interspliced into the free music stream but you can remove these by paying $34.99 for an annual subscription to Apple's cloud music service iTunes Match.
iTunes Radio attracted 20 million active users within three months of launching in the United States in September, according to research firm Music Forecasting. By comparison, it took market leader Pandora eight years to accumulate 64 million active users. The market has since been crowded by other entrants, including Spotify and offerings by Google, Samsung and Sony.
The launch of iTunes Radio has changed the streaming landscape in America, Music Forecasting executive vice president Sam Milkman told Fairfax Media.
He said that users have welcomed the launch there because it's automatically embedded in the toolbar of the iTunes application; the interface is simpler than its major competitor and radio streaming pioneer Pandora; it's easy to buy songs; and it plays comparatively fewer ads.
However, it's still early days.
"It adds a huge jolt of credibility and brings it to consumers that have never seen anything like this before. It really does open up the floodgtates to a much larger market," Milkman said.
"However, the arrival of licensed online radio does not feel like cataclysmic event like arrival of the iPod, which had such a huge impact even though there were mp3 players before that."
The internet radio streaming model was pioneered eight years ago by American start-up Pandora, which brought the service to Australia in 2012. That same year on-demand listening service Spotify launched its app locally. Pandora is still only available in Australia and New Zealand outside the US.
Unlike Pandora and iTunes Radio, which broadcast music automatically, Spotify allows users to select songs on-demand and curate their own playlists.
Milkman said Apple's launch was just the first volley in the contest for radio streaming dominance.
"In the first chapter it does not feel like a big win for Apple. I don't feel like people are going to leave Pandora for iTunes, at this stage."
Apple will be hoping the streaming service boosts sales of songs and albums in the iTunes store. Each song is accompanied by a ''buy'' button.
Launched in Australia 2014.
Automatically plays songs based on your song library and tastes.
Free with ads. Remove ads with a $34.99 annual subscription to Apple's cloud music storage iTunes Match.
Available from the iTunes mobile and Mac apps.
Launched in Australia 2012.
Plays songs according to you choice of genre or artist.
Free with ads. Remove ads with $US36 annual subscription, or $US3.99 per month, which also includes higher quality audio.
Launched in Australia in 2012. Streams music on-demand.
Free with ads. Ad-free subscription is $11.99 per month (trial), including the ability to download music and listen offline.
- with AAP