Online music world on iRadio: Apple, imagine our concern
Leading figures in the online music industry have cast doubt on Apple's claims that its new streaming iRadio service will revolutionise the way fanbois listen to songs.
The fruity firm announced iRadio at the WWDC yesterday, telling the gathered hordes that it would allow them to listen to personalised radio stations and then buy the songs they are listening to. The service will be subsidised through advertising, although subscribers to iTunes Match will be able to listen ad-free.
It's the sort of announcement that you would expect to strike fear into the hearts of other online music providers, but the boss of TuneIn radio - which sells an app allowing users to tune in live to nearly all of the world's radio stations - said he wasn't concerned about Apple's latest effort stealing his audience.
"I would say that we're quite different to iRadio," CEO John Donham told The Register. "I would say that services like Pandora or iRadio are just like putting CDs on shuffle, whereas we allow people to listen live to broadcasters from around the world. So we're not worried.
"However, when it comes to streaming services, which allow listeners to put their favourite songs on shuffle, there's going to be a bloodbath as several competitors move into the same space. It's going to be exciting watching them compete."
He also described the iRadio tag as "misleading", because it lacked the live, real time experience of radio, which relies on DJs to choose the music rather than algorithms.
TuneIn is now branching out into the automobile market, working with BMW, Mercedes, Ford, General Motors and Tesla to find a way to fit its services into car radio. Donham claimed to have signed up almost 98 percent of the world's radio stations, which can claim advertising revenue through TuneIn.
Oleg Fomenko, founder of Bloom.fm, which describes itself as "the world's first £1 a month music subscription service", said that iRadio was not the cure for a music industry in decline.
He said: "Streaming radio is not a new concept and, as expected, it’s an ad-funded model. Apple’s vast user-base will undoubtedly guarantee healthy traffic and as such the service will be an attractive proposition for advertisers, but will this create significant and sustainable revenue for rights holders and artists? We’ve heard talk of the major labels securing attractive deals and healthy revenue shares from Apple, but the stand-alone viability of an ad-funded model still remains to be proven.
"Everyone agrees that the £1 per download model is in-decline and that £10 per month streaming subscriptions have failed to gain mass-market traction. Streaming radio, expensive on demand subscriptions and paid for downloads do not reflect how people consume music today. They want total control over what they listen to at an affordable price. The combination of restricted streaming radios and paid for downloads doesn’t satisfy this need, neither does the standard £10 per month on-demand services."
There is "nothing new for consumers" in Apple's iRadio, he continued.
"This is all about selling more downloads and more devices, which is perfectly fine but let’s not kid ourselves that it will change consumer habits or the fortunes of the industry," he added.
"The £1 per track download model has driven many to music piracy and a reliance on free on-demand sources of music like YouTube."
Predictably, Apple was ecstatically evangelical about its new service.
Eddy Cue, Apple's senior veep of internet software and services, said in a tinned statement: "iTunes Radio is an incredible way to listen to personalised radio stations which have been created just for you.
"It's the music you love most and the music you're going to love, and you can easily buy it from the iTunes Store with just one click."
The iRadio service will be offered for free to Apple-using fanbois and will allow them to use Siri to tailor their recommended songs by telling it which tunes are great and which are rubbish, raising the spectre of earphone-equipped fanbois in the streets angrily shouting at their iThings for playing the wrong song. Fanbois can also ask Siri what's playing and then buy the track from iTunes.
It puts Apple on a collision course with Google Play, Pandora and Spotify, which all offer similar services. ®