The battle for internet radio dominance— iTunes Radio vs Pandora — has officially begun. Apple launched its iTunes Radio channel on Sept. 18. CEO Tim Cook revealed earlier this week (10/22/13) at an iPad event that the 5-week old digital streaming service has already amassed 20 million listeners who have streamed over one billion songs. Currently, iTunes Radio is available only in the U.S. and is free with no ads for users of iTunes Match. Subscribers can also enjoy iTunes Radio ad-free, for $24.95/yr. Apple’s radio product works on IOS devices plus iTunes for Mac and PC. Missing from the list is Android.
Like other entries in the digital music streaming space (i.e. Pandora), the Apple product lets listeners create custom stations plus discover new music. iTunes Radio also features genre stations curated by high-profile guest artists and DJs such as Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and others. There are also stations focused on individual artists such as the Beatles.
According to MusicWeek.com, Pandora reported 72.7 million users at its most recent shareholder meeting, meaning that iTunes has already gathered a listener base about one-third as large as Pandora in just 30 days. DigitalMusicNews has projected that the size ratio could hit 50% by the end of 2013. But others suggest that because iTunes Radio is so new its 20 million users more closely aligns with Pandora’s total registered users which totals 200 million, not its 72.7 million recurring monthly visitors.
Bloomberg.com says the Cupertino giant has aggressive (and expensive) plans to enter new markets in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Australia where Pandora already operates. Also part of its early 2014 expansion plans will include the UK and Canada where Pandora is absent.
Billboard’s Glenn Peoples is more reserved than others saying, “iTunes Radio is off to a good start, but it’s too early to call it a Pandora killer.” He compares the time-spent-listening between Pandora and iTunes Radio, adjusted for a 30-day period, and finds that Pandora users averaged 15.8 hours per listener per month while iTunes averaged 2.57. These numbers include Australia and New Zealand-based Pandora listeners, while iTunes is U.S. only. The numbers however, should not be relied upon too heavily Peoples says because, “Apple reported the total number of songs played while Pandora reports listener hours. To compare Apple to Pandora requires converting Apple’s number of songs played into listener hours (or convert Pandora’s listener hours into songs played). In addition, the two companies report figures at different intervals.”
However you assess the present and future for the two web casters, it’s clear that competition for ears and pocketbooks is getting punchy. Pandora exudes confidence as a company, but DigitalMusicnews reports that its founder Tim Westergren, is cashing in his stock at a rate of over $2 million a month. On the mobile beat, unlike iTunes Radio, Pandora works on both IOS and Android. Will iTunes Radio also include an app to woo the substantial Android audience?
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