iTunes Radio: It Totally & Completely Blows Pandora Away…

Ask yourself: where would you rather be listening to online radio (both non-premium, free accounts):


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…or here?

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…or here?

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…or here?

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…or here?

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Any questions?


Written while listening to deadmau5, The xx, Benny Benassi, Steve Aoki, Kid Cudi, Zedd, Markus Shulz…

32 Responses

  1. Oz

    well said Paul, just updated itunes this morning and it’s really

    rather good!

  2. Casey

    Did they get rid of the old radio? It was still there in beta testing from what I heard.

    • Listener Supported Station

      Yes, the “old radio” (station directory) is still there but may be hidden after you update iTunes.

      You must go Preferences/General and ‘check’ Internet Radio as a source. This will make the “real radio station” directory available in the iTunes menu.

  3. Spandex

    More importantly iTunes Radio seems to pick songs I enjoy far more often than Pandora.

  4. Me

    I disagree. It looks like Pandora has a lot of extra features that iTunes Radio doesn’t have – like helping people in Los Angeles find girlfriends and saving people money on car insurance.

  5. Yves Villeneuve

    These guys who are the highest ranked in their field also said iTunes Radio was better than Pandora.

  6. Toy Needle

    What incentive does Apple have to make iTunes Radio any better? Their goal is to get people to purchase iTunes Match and get more people in the cloud; so ad revenue isn’t important. iTunes Radio is just another perceptual benefit of owning an Apple product. Like Ping, right?

    Pandora, on the other hand, has tremendous incentive to improve. The more listeners it has, the better it is for its advertisers. Of course, most tech/music sites don’t cover (or comprehend) the advertising sales end of the radio business–which _is_ Pandora’s business.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Toy Needle,

      There’s an entirely different piece of this discussion that you may be ignoring. Ask yourself, why does Pandora need to focus on advertising so much? Or, more accurately, why do they choose to focus on advertising so much?

      This year, we learned something very insightful. Pandora capped its power users on mobile, forcing them to pay a few dollars after 40 hours of monthly listening. The results were that many stayed on, and paid Pandora the money.

      A premium, paying subscriber is worth far more than a non-paying, ad-based subscriber. Yet Pandora canceled the program, fearing that it would hamper their broader, aggressive subscriber growth.

      Yet Pandora remains entirely unprofitable, to this day, while Wall Street keeps bumping the stock and making ‘stars’ like Tim Westergren mega-millionaires.

      I’m all for success and the American Dream. But should songwriters be forced to pay for that?

      • Toy Needle

        Dude, I can only conclude that you have never worked in broadcast media.

  7. visitor 7

    Who on earth spends time on screen when listening to either of these “radio” stations? I pick a channel to listen to and then the music comes out of my speakers. End of story.

    You think with Apple’s love of monopoly they are going to be striking a deal with Sonos anytime soon? I seriously doubt it. Apple only plays in it’s own sandbox.

  8. JC

    Apple doesn’t need the ad revenue nor the iTunes Match revenue – at least certiainly not in the short term. Those things represent the minimum new revenue Apple had to create in order to get rev share deals done with the content owners. Remember, they should see a spike in purchases of music due to the tight integration as well.

    Also, don’t forget that its in Apple’s best interest to strike deals that are richer for the content owners (per stream) than what Pandora, Spotify, and others are paying out. Why? Because Apple sells devices for a living. If they offer up more than Pandora and Spotify, where do you think the labels are going to launch their latest music first? iTunes, that’s where. And what is going to happen to all those people who subscribe to other services when all of the freshest new music is on iTunes first? They are going to become disenchanted, and they will be forced to switch.

    And because all of the other services are living on a financial razor’s edge, it won’t take much for Apple to kill them. Notice how Pandora is desperately scrambling to raise $285 Million in new equity. They are preparing for winter. And winter is coming.

    • FarePlay

      JC, you got it. The number 1 driver for listeners will be who has the new releases first.

      End of story, end of Pandora.

  9. FarePlay

    And the number 1 reason why iTunes Radio is better than Pandora for artists?

    The iTunes Store.

    Game, set, match.

  10. Marmuro

    Let’s begin with the fact that iTunes is willing to pay the songwriter what is fair… whilst Pandora is putting its efforts in Congress, trying to pay less royalties legally.

  11. friskit

    apple’s UI will always be nicer than anything out there.

    the answer on who’s better should be around the selection algorithm of songs, not the UI. c’mon people!

    in this case, from sampling a few stations, i’m much, much happier with iTunes’ song selection than Pandora’s.

  12. independent all the way

    And then there’s this: iTunes radio is likely better for independent and DIY artists. Pandora, with their manual curation process, can’t afford to add much DIY content, even artists who have modest but passionate followings.

    iTunes, on the other hand, has — and will play — everything.

    This is good for discovery. I want my music to be able to get rotated in with more popular tracks of similar caliber so that new listeners can discover me.

    And if done right, it’s also good for listeners.

    Whether my music will actually be played on iTunes radio I don’t know, but I like at least having that shot.

    At our DIY level, internet radio is not really about revenues from Pandora or iTunes radio, it’s about getting discovered by fans who will download our stream our music. Pandora limits our options on that front.

    Story, Paul?

    • Paul Resnikoff

      The discussion around independent labels gets really complicated, really fast. For starters, Apple dealt roughly with indies, forcing them to sign pre-formed contracts with sub-standard terms; indie organizations like Merlin were powerless.

      But you mention playing everything; somehow I doubt that will happen. Listeners tune out if you do too far down the tail.

      • wallow-T

        If the software “radio” is a smart solution, it should notice that the listener is moving farther and farther down various reaches of the “long tail” and play/recommend accordingly. In short, it should identify the more adventurous listener and play more adventurous content at them.

        Even easier is the case where the listener is working with identifiable long-tail categories, like “bluegrass” or “Balkan bagpipe music” or “classical music written by living composers.”

        • Paul Resnikoff


          I’ll be blunt: I think you are chasing the Long Tail fantasy that was circulating around 2005. My father is a tuba player, in his retirement he listens to tuba solos and incredibly obscure lower brass ensembles. But even he doesn’t want a radio station that plays this all day; the rest of the time he’s listening to the head of the tail on now-niche genres, like jazz, and sadly, now classical (which is heading in that direction).

          And he’s semi-retired, he has time to pursue all his passions with larger amounts of free time than most.

          The roundabout point I’m making is this: the number of listeners that want to hear obscure (and good!) artists one after another is very, very slim. It’s a very difficult market to chase, and I’d be really surprised if Apple ignites to Long Tail 2.0 revolution here.

          Even Pandora’s Music Genome Project realized that super-niche, DNA-similar tracks are often problematic; people in general like sounds they can relate to, bands they’ve heard or are likely to hear about somewhere. Go look up the total number of tracks that Pandora has for proof of this, I think it’s around 80,000 if I’m not mistaken (not having looked this up for years).

          That’s not to say that listeners don’t want some Long Tail extremity every now and then, but it’s not the appetite that most listeners have.

      • Duncs

        ” indie organizations like Merlin were powerless” – given that Merlin never ever had any negotiations with iTunes in the first place they would be hardly in a position to try and dictate anything to Apple.The fact that they continue to spout their “virtual 4th Major” nonsense and go to the press crying like spoilt brats when a service tells their dick of a GM to go away when he can’t negotiate a deal is more worrying.About 95% of Indies globally ARE NOT represeneted by Merlin so please stop classifying them as being the only Indie player in town

    • GGG

      They want to capitalize on impulse buys. People are already on their itunes, and are one click away from dropping a $1 or more. They are not going to play untested/undesirable songs. Even their discovery channels will probably be loaded with their highest selling indies. And I’m not saying this like it’s a bad thing. It may even be better in many regards since it’s a more human element (gauging plays off of actual human sales) as opposed to Pandora’s soulless robot element. But I think you need to realize that your indie album is most likely not going to be played next to Vampire Weekend unless you have a surge in sales one day/week or get popular enough to register as a potential driver of those impulse sales.

  13. billeeto

    I don’t see much discussion of “the other white meat”, Spotify. As a listener, I find Spotify superior to Pandora AND iTunes. I can go to any song I want (well almost), long or short tail, and if I want to make a radio station out of it, I can do that easily on Spotify. I don’t think I can do that on P or iT. I can only make radio stations, I can’t get on demand songs.

    As for how the artists get paid on iTunes, can someone explain how iTunes pays so much better than spotify for the radio function?

    I note that iTunes offers you a purchase option, which is not available on spotify and I think it should be. Most people wouldn’t buy a song off of spotify radio, because if they like some tune, they can just get it on demand as much as they like (assuming you have a subscription)… I’m one who wants to buy a song every so often, because I want to put it on garageband and then learn a solo or something, so I go from spotify to iTunes for that. But most of the time, there’s no need to buy anything.


    • steveh

      The core on-demand aspect of Spotify places it in a different category.

      “can someone explain how iTunes pays so much better than spotify for the radio function?”

      Most music creators would say that this is because Spotify flagrantly de-values recorded music, and is a company that is driven by greed and the pursuit of power. Sure it provides a good service to its consumers, but it treats the people that actually make the music with arrogance and disrespect.

      • AnAmusedGeek

        Wow! Spotifiy is a major record label ??

        Or did they just borrow the business tactics ?? 😛

        (btw, I think billeeto meant, what is Itunes radio per stream payout vs Spotify’s payout – He seems to have conceded ‘purchase’ revenue as a non-starter on Spotify)

        • billeeto

          Yup. Spotify pays more than iTunes radio, because its on demand and therefore its a higher royalty than the radio stream. I get that iTunes radio may mean more coin for artists because of the ease of purchase, but I think the future is on-demand streaming with a radio option, and Spotify – greedy or no — is the leader of that. Pandora will fall, but Spotify has legs.

  14. hippydog

    excellent discussion..

    it will be interesting to see how things turn out..

    It would be nice if the long tail benefits from this, but as some mentioned, it will most likely be more of the same..

    I really liked the “idea” of Pandora, because its Genome project should of heavily benefited the ‘long tail’,

    but as Paul mentioned, in reality it didnt pan out.. mainly I think because in practice the Genome project wasnt curated by computers, it actually took many man hours for trained curators to “tag” each and every song before it could be added, leaving the far part of the ‘long tail’ untouched as it wasnt ‘worth it’ yet..

    so yes, I also predict Apple will crush them.. for many reasons, and one of them is “Mainstream” is where the money is.. and the fact the labels are desperate to keep the status quo..