Apple drops free iTunes Radio, bundles it into Apple Music

Apple's Internet radio service will become part of Apple Music, and will only be available to paying subscribers.

itunes radio

iTunes Radio’s time as a free, ad-supported service is coming to an end. According to BuzzFeed, Apple will discontinue the free version of its Internet radio service and move it behind the Apple Music paywall starting in late January.

“As a listener of ad-supported radio on Apple Music, we want you to know it’s being discontinued starting January 28th,” Apple said in an email to iTunes Radio users (via Rob Griffiths on Twitter). Beats 1 will remain free to listen to, even without an Apple Music subscription, according to the email.

It’s important to note that this does not impact iTunes’ separate “Internet Radio” feature that lets you listen to non-Apple Internet radio streams. This feature has been around since the early days of iTunes, and as far as we can tell, it isn’t going anywhere.

The story behind the story: Apple introduced iTunes Radio alongside iOS 7 back in 2013 as an answer to Internet radio behemoth Pandora.  Like Pandora, it lets you pick pre-programmed stations or create your own stations based on a song or artist. Up until now, iTunes Radio was a free, ad-supported service for most; subscribing to iTunes Match—and later, Apple Music—did away with the ads.

iTunes Radio’s move to a subscription-only model follows word that Apple has disbanded the sales team for its iAd advertising network. 9to5Mac speculates that the decision to end ad-supported iTunes Radio is related to the iAd shutdown, saying that “Apple can simplify the responsibilities of the floundering iAd group by getting rid of the need for ads to service the legacy stations.”

Looking for alternatives? You have options

If you would rather keep the ads in your Internet radio in exchange for free music playback, you have some alternatives. Pandora, the biggest name in Internet radio, provides a free, ad-supported service tier to go along with its $5-per-month Pandora One subscription service. Pandora lacks the same level of integration that iTunes Radio offered, but the company does offer a free iOS app to listeners.

Spotify is another possibility: Although it’s known primarily for its a la carte streaming, its Radio service works a lot like both Pandora and iTunes Radio. Spotify offers both a Mac and iOS app, and it too has a $10-per-month “Premium” service, which does away with the ads and lets you listen to your Spotify music collection when you’re offline.

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