Apple’s iTunes Radio Enters the Streaming Music Race: What’s in it for Artists?

Dubspot guest blogger April White takes a look at Apple’s announcement of iTunes Radio and examines how this may affect artists who use the new streaming service.

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Apple announced iTunes Radio yesterday, about one month after Google launched its Internet radio service. iTunes Radio will personalize your streaming stations based on the music and artists you search, play and download via iTunes. It will also provide access to exclusive “first listen” premieres from top-selling artists.

Apple’s entry into the streaming radio race raises questions about the long-term trajectory of this competitive landscape, and what’s in it for lesser known artists and producers.

Many complain that streaming services like Spotify rob them of profits, only paying 1/3 of one cent per stream; but what if there were something else in it for artists?

What if a major streaming service could help users discover music far beyond what the major labels are promoting, break new artists, and provide a platform for fans to connect directly with indie labels, producers and bands? What if you, the artist, could find out who is listening to your music and establish a relationship with them through a mainstream streaming service?

Hold that thought.

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About iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio, which is ad-supported and free to everyone, will debut this fall in conjunction with iOS7. Alternatively, a paid version, iTunes Match, will offer ad-free streaming for $24.99 per year and draw upon all of a user’s stored iCloud music, including data from imported CDs.

The difference between iTunes Radio and Apple’s Genius function is that the radio service will build playlists using the entire iTunes catalog, which now includes over 26 million tracks. It will also feature more than 200 curated streaming stations.

It seems as if Apple had to launch a streaming radio service to remain competitive, but that iTunes Radio isn’t all that innovative and won’t dramatically change the streaming landscape. Basically, it’s a more algorithmic and purchase-based alternative to Pandora that will draw upon several million more tracks and feature hundreds of curated stations—and undoubtedly act as another tool for the majors to break new singles and promote the Top 40.

Beats Music Rumors

Yet another competitor, Beats Music (formerly known as “Project Daisy”), is expected to enter the streaming race later this year—although what competitive edge it might offer is unclear. Beats Music is the offspring of Beats Electronics, the audio brand co-founded by hip-hop producer Dr. Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine.

Beats Music announced in January it had invested in Topspin to create artist opportunities inside “Daisy,” and that Trent Reznor would be the Chief Creative Officer. It also revealed Ian Rogers, most recently the CEO of Topspin, would act as Chief Executive Officer and simultaneously step into the leadership position at MOG, the streaming music service Beats acquired in 2012.

The oddball combination of Reznor, Dre, Iovine, and Rogers, who has a unique understanding of the music business from the artist’s point of view and is “firmly committed to championing the artist community”—combined with investments in Topspin and MOG—sounded like a unique and promising opportunity for a major music streaming service to actually break the mold and become more artist-centric.

But Reuters Canada reported in March that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook met with Iovine about Beats Music’s planned streaming service, and expressed interest in its business model and rollout plans. Also, interestingly, Lizzie Garlinghouse, who spent the last three and a half years doing public relations for Apple’s iTunes Store, is now overseeing PR for Beats Music.

Although the dubious connections to iTunes make this vision a little dimmer, we can still hope for the best and believe that Reznor wouldn’t put his reputation behind “just another Spotify.”

Even if Beats Music goes the way of iTunes Radio or Spotify 2.0, somewhere an insightful group of must be working on an innovative streaming platform that will actually create new opportunities for artists and fans alike. They just must be.


April White is a recording artist, producer, label manager, and the former Manager of Communications and Public Relations for eMusic. She is currently the President and Founder of her own firm, April White Communications, whose recent clients include the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM). She is also a member of the electro-pop trio started by Jon “Hobotech” Margulies, Tiny Machines.

 

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