As expected, Apple unveiled iTunes Radio today: the company is now in the web radio business, and thanks to size of the iTunes membership, it instantly becomes one of Pandora's top competitors. When the radio service rolls out September 18th as part of the iOS 7 update, users will be able to can create their own stations, and, as with Pandora, tweak the direction of their listening by tapping "Play More Like This" or "Never Play This Song."
The service is free, and iTunes Match subscribers don't have to see any ads. The radio feature will also simplify the buying process: listeners can click a nearby "buy" button as a song plays or purchase it later from their listening history.
Apple's entry into the arena surely has the record labels thankful.
Much has been made about the future of music belonging to Pandora, Spotify, and other streaming services, but downloads still generate much fatter profit margins for music companies. Those sales have waned as the popularity of ad-supported streaming services has grown, and the recording industry hopes Apple's offering will boost download sales. Clashes over royalties have also driven a wedge between Pandora and the industry, which likely welcomes Apple's entry into the arena as a powerful new competitor.