iTunes Radio: Innovation or idiocy?

In Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Featured on App, Marketing and Sales, Technology by Vaughn Highfield

iTunes Radio: Innovation or idiocy?:

Bear with me now, I know that many people out there are Apple aficionados and praise the ground that Steve Jobs walked on, but under new CEO Tim Cook things just aren't quite the same.

At the rather lacklustre  WWDC Apple event that took place yesterday, Apple announced that they would be moving into the digital radio streaming business with iTunes. However, this is quite possibly another silly move to notch up against their diabolical Maps software and the terrible Ping service they closed down due to lack of use.

While normally Apple announce something, the world baulks at how absurd it is and how it'll never catch on and then we all find ourselves using something similar every day – this is different. This time Apple are moving into the radio streaming space late, and they're going about it all wrong.

Having succeeded in killing other platforms who offered free radio streaming in the past by making iTunes affordable and then bundling in Genius to make on-the-fly playlists for you, moving back to the model they once eradicated makes little sense.

Having an ads-run digital radio service is also not the best of ideas financially as many other streaming services have discovered, long before Apple entered the game.

First up is the rather brilliant Spotify. While only recently released in the States, it's been out in Europe for years and has seen its influence spread quickly amongst the music savvy and the key Millennial market. However, it struggled along for years trying to make money this way. It was only recently when it became bullish with how much it gave away for free, the increasing annoyance of adverts and the low price-point tiers that finally helped it make money.

Next up is Pandora, which is essentially what Apple are going to be copying wholesale. Using a proprietary DJ technology that selects tracks for users to listen to – which is what Apple will be using Genius to do – it's yet to turn a profit at all. That's surprising when you discover that it has more online listeners than any traditional radio station.

SEE MORE: 8 Of The Worst Marketing Faux Pas

It's not looking good for Apple's streaming service.

But then again, Apple don't need it to. The plan is for their radio service to be a discovery channel that funnels people into purchasing music from iTunes itself, meaning a little extra revenue for them.

Seems sensible until you realise that Apple are essentially cannibalising their already successful music distribution programme just in search of a few more sales. It seems as if Apple is cutting its nose off to spite its face – figuratively of course, nobody's mutilating Tim Cook.

The biggest problem of all here, and the general elephant in the room, is iTunes itself. Brought in to curb the idea of a free-music society that Nappster so desperately sought, it's driven the worth of music down to little more than 79p a track.

With the cost of on-demand services like Spotify being so deliciously cheap and boasting huge libraries of tracks to listen to, how can a radio service win out?

Apple may well see it as a way to bring some extra coppers to the coffers, but when faced with being able to listen to your favourite artist, song or album over and over again versus listening to artists inspired by or related to said artist, nine out of 10 people are going to pick the former.

Of course, I could well be wrong. After all Apple have an install base across a fair few devices around the world. But seeing as other music streaming services do too, and 75 per cent of all the worlds smartphones and devices are Android, it's unlikely this'll be a money maker for Apple at all.

Do you think this was a smart move by Apple?

Could you ever see yourself using such a service over on-demand alternatives?


At this year's Loyalty World Europe you can hear from Sainsbury's Head of Loyalty, Helen Hunter to find out what great companies do differently. A perfect way to learn how not to venture into digital radio streaming services.


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