Free, Ad-Supported iTunes Radio Is No More

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Ad-supported iTunes Radio stations have today gone off the air. As we reported earlier this month, Apple decided it would shutter its free streaming iTunes Radio offering, a competitor to Pandora, in an effort to boost subscriptions to its paid service, Apple Music. Going forward, the only free radio option is Apple’s Beats 1 radio – the DJ-hosted station, which Apple is now marketing as its “premier free broadcast.”

For those who had yet to pay for Apple Music, that means you’ll lose access to dozens of curated radio stations focused on various musical genres, and more – including the newly released and certainly entertaining “Star Wars” radio.

To continue to listen to these stations, as well as take advantage of the on-demand music streaming option, listeners will need to convert to paid subscribers of Apple Music. That service costs $9.99 per month for an individual account, or $14.99 for a family subscription (up to 6 people).

Apple’s initial foray into the on-demand streaming space has been doing fairly well – a testament to the broad reach of its platform. The company said earlier in January that it had surpassed 10 million subscribers. The figure was up from the 6.5 million it claimed in October. That already puts Apple Music ahead of Pandora, which boasts over 78 million active users, but only 3.9 million paid accounts.

And while Apple may be stepping away from the ad-supported radio model that Pandora embraces, Pandora has been working to make its service a better competitor to Apple Music. It even began rolling out an update this week that introduces personalized recommendations, similar to Apple Music’s “For You” section.

However, Spotify is still the one to beat in the space, with over 20 million paid members.

We should note, however, that the curated iTunes Radio stations may no longer be free, but the “internet radio” section in iTunes – a deprecated offering that most have forgotten about – remains live.