iTunes Radio will no longer be free, as of January 28. In an email to customers, Apple said that the Pandora-like service will only be available for Apple Music subscribers, which costs $9.99 per month.
Apple will still be offering free radio, however. The Beats 1 listening channels, with live DJs, will remain in operation. (This is different than the Beats Music app, which was recently shut down).
Apple tells TechCrunch that going forward, “for listeners of ad-supported Apple Music Radio, available only in the US and Australia, 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.”
iTunes Radio worked a lot like Pandora — customized radio listening, yet with limited skips and no control over the order in which songs played. But Apple Music, which was introduced last summer, has become a priority for the company, and this latest push emphasizes those efforts.
A competitor to Spotify, Apple Music has been gaining traction, recent reports suggest, with as many as 10 million subscribers. Apple has not yet confirmed this number, but did say that at least 6.5 million had signed up as of October.
Apple Music has also been an integral feature of CarPlay, the company’s new auto dashboard.
Apple, which first popularized portable MP3 listening with its iPods, has been vying to remain a top contender in the digital music space. Its $3 billion acquisition of Dr. Dre’s Beats Electronics in 2014, exemplified this push. The purchase brought famed record producer Jimmy Iovine on board, who has been involved with developing Apple’s new music initiatives.