Apple to start charging for iTunes Radio on January 28

iTunes RadioImage Source: Niels Epting

Initially launched as a free streaming service in September of 2013, iTunes Radio is about to be subsumed by Apple Music. Translation? The formerly free and ad-supported service will soon be available exclusively to Apple Music subscribers.

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Beginning on January 28, iTunes Radio will only be available behind Apple Music’s $9.99/month paywall. Word of the change to Apple’s Pandora clone was officially confirmed in a statement Apple provided to Buzzfeed yesterday evening:

We are making Beats 1 the premier free broadcast from Apple and phasing out the ad-supported stations at the end of January. Additionally, with an Apple Music membership, listeners can access dozens of radio stations curated by our team of music experts, covering a range of genres, commercial-free with unlimited skips. The free three-month trial of Apple Music includes radio.

While Apple’s decision will undoubtedly rankle iTunes Radio users, it’s hard to say that this move is all that surprising. Ever since iTunes Radio first hit the scene, the service’s underlying goal was to simply funnel users towards digital downloads, and more broadly, keep music lovers nestled comfortably within the confines of the iOS ecosystem and prevent them from opting for third-party services like Spotify and Pandora.

Though the release of iTunes Radio signaled a fundamental change in Apple’s music strategy, the service never quite caught on in the way Apple intended. Arguably, the crux of the problem was that iTunes Radio didn’t really provide music lovers with anything new that they didn’t already have access to elsewhere.

To that end, bundling iTunes Radio into Apple Music serves to position Apple Music as a more compelling service: $10/month for on-demand music streaming and commercial free radio a’la Pandora isn’t too shabby of a deal.

Incidentally, Apple Music seems to be doing quite well in its own right. Just last week we reported that the service already boasts more than 10 million paying subscribers, a milestone that took Spotify six years to reach.

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