Giving iTunes Radio a second chance

Giving iTunes Radio a second chance

iOS 7 brought with it the introduction of iTunes Radio. This left me hoping I could cancel a few of my streaming subscriptions and replace them with it . My initial impressions of iTunes Radio for iOS left me skeptical to say the least. Since then I've looped back around and given it a second chance. While it's far from perfect, I have come to find that it's a great companion to my daily driver, which is Rdio. Here's why:

All of us have different music habits. Some of us choose to buy music while others are 100% committed to a streaming service of some kind. Over the years I've taken a look at many different streaming services, done trials, bought subscriptions, cancelled subscriptions, and come full circle again. At the end of the day, I've come to the realization that not one of them completely fits my needs.

What I do know is that I feel I've finally found a happy compromise and iTunes Radio is partially responsible for that. After giving it a second chance, I have found that iTunes Radio typically provides more suggestions and random artists that I do like than what other services provide. This leaves me listening to iTunes Radio throughout the day and adding the songs I really like to my Wish List. Since I'm not a buying music kind of person (I quickly get tired of it and never listen to it again), I'd rather pay a subscription fee to Rdio. I can then add all those tracks I discovered with iTunes Radio to my Rdio collection. Then when I don't want random and prefer listening to a certain kind of music or specific artist, I can do so with Rdio. When I get bored of a certain song, I can delete it and repeat the process at no extra cost to me aside from an all you can eat subscription fee.

I currently pay around $18/month for Rdio as there are two of us in the house that have unlimited subscriptions. This means we can stream all we want without ads and download as many songs as our iPhones or iPads will hold as long as we have an active subscription to the service. Both of us also subscribe to iTunes Match since we both have extensive music libraries that preceded the convenience of streaming services. With that subscription, we've both got unlimited access to iTunes Radio without ads at no extra cost.

Prior to iTunes Radio I also subscribed to and Songza. Since giving iTunes Radio a second chance, I've cancelled both of those premium subscriptions. I still use both but I can deal with ads for as little as I'm using them nowadays. I still think iTunes Radio is sorely lacking when it comes to electronic music but I can simply listen to the ad supported version of when I'm in the mood for that. And just like I do with iTunes Radio, I jump into Rdio and add the tracks I really like to my collection.

In our household, this setup works for us. iTunes Radio has saved me a few bucks a month on premium streaming subscriptions and while I gave up a little, I'm happy overall with the compromise.

How do you listen to music on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC?

While this is my current setup, I'm interested to hear what you guys are using too. Has iTunes Radio changed anything for you? Why or why not? Do the genres you listen to impact the services you use?

Let me know in the comments!

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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Giving iTunes Radio a second chance


I use iTunes Radio a lot, and it even got me to subscribe to Match, which is a lot better than I thought it was!. When I'm at home I either listen to that or I'll use gMusic 2 on my iPad since I have different music in my Google Music library.

Match is worth it just for the fact that it turns any music, from any source, into 320k AAC that you can keep forever even if you don't resubscribe.

I believe it's actually 256k. And while in theory it should match everything that iTunes has available, I have albums that are half matched and half uploaded to the service from my library (what Match does when it can't identify a track).

I do enjoy the service, however, and find it worth the $25/year. Especially that it gives me commercial free iTunes Radio.

Yep, the $25 a year to pay for match is a good pay off to not listen to repetitive advertising.

It is nice to listen to iRadio through the Apple TV in any room of the house or on the Mac or while working in the paint booth and just like Pandora opens my eyes to other music that I wouldn't normally purchase.

The category search on iTunes Radio is still pretty bad for electronic music. A better way is to put in a specific artist and listen to the other random artists that it puts in.

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Yeah I've noticed this too. I've found that if I find random things I like, I just throw them in Rdio. To randomly listen to electronic, has been my go-to for literally years.

Waaaayyy before iTunes Radio, pandora and the like, I would just listen to the steaming radio that was built into iTunes itself. Sites like lounge radio(dot)com would have their own iTunes stream. That is more radio-centric instead of artist-centric however.

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TuneIn Radio is a better option for -- iTunes is fine for it on your PC/Mac, but it doesn't sync saved internet radio stations onto iOS devices. TuneIn plays, both free and subscription channels, and it does it in a browser on your desktop or the app on your iOS device. The iOS apps let you record up to 8 hours of streaming, with the ability to skip songs -- a great way to listen as when it comes to electronic music, there's 1 good song or every 50 you listen to ;-) While you can listen to from within Safari, if you switch to another app, the stream stops. With the TuneIn app, music continues in the background.

You also might try the 'downtempo' iTunes station, in 'Discovery' mode -- it's not half bad :-)

I'm currently using Google Play Music as my primary with iTunes Radio as a secondary. Currently having Nexus devices for phone and tablet has limited my interaction with the Apple ecosystem, but I still use a Mac and have one Apple TV device. I enjoy the playlist on the iTunes radio stations more than on the Google Play Music, but having Chromecast devices hooked up to HDMI ports on every TV/receiver at home and at work means throwing what I'm listening to on a mobile device on to the speakers of my choice in whichever room I happen to go into is just clutch. That also means that I'll typically choose my own playlist as opposed to a radio station. When I want random music in a certain genre that I'm sure I will enjoy without having to skip tracks, I will go to Itunes Radio on the Apple TV box or Airplay it from my Macbook Air to the built in Airplay on my Harmon Kardon Receiver. I used Spotify for the longest, but got sick of constantly having to select private listening when I logged in via Facebook. That $35 Chromecast has the ability to be such an incredible disruptor, especially once Google opens it up to all apps, and a major part of the reason I left the iPad for a Nexus when I've always preferred Android on the phone, but iPad for the tablet.

That's exactly what turned me off on Spotify. The Facebook shenanigans. And personally, I MUCH prefer the interface of Rdio over Spotify. Once I discovered Rdio, I was done with Spotify for good. That and Spotify limits how many songs you can download for offline playing and Rdio doesn't - as many as you can physically store, you can save.

I just never liked Spotify and as I said to a friend in the UK that loves Spotify, it's kind of tacky to rent your music and pay $10 when you could purchase a new album off iTunes each month and at least own the music!

I couldn't grasp the interface and it doesn't do anything to open your eyes to other bands. Pandora and iRadio at least find similar music from bands that either you have forgotten or new bands.

I would say that at least 50% of the music I have bought on iTunes was because I enjoyed that artist's music that was included on a station of music I already liked on Pandora. Since I started listening to iRadio I've been purchasing the odd song here and there that it has played though they are mostly songs that I already liked and it brought back memories and of course since I was listening through one of the Apple TV's in the house at the time it was so easy to make a purchase of that particular song and the money I pay for ad-free subscriptions to both Pandora and iRadio are worth paying for. Spotify I felt just never justified that $10 a month.

Chromecast is going nowhere except for people who want an ultra cheap way to get Netflix. It has minimal content, poor wi-fi, and is cheaply made. Meanwhile Google collects everything you do with it and sells that information to advertisers. For $50 you can get a Roku that does vastly more including screen casting from any device.

I have 3 Roku devices and they don't do what Chromecast does and aren't nearly as portable. Cheaply made? Not even. Everything including my toaster has Netflix built in so that was barely even a consideration. The wifi is rock solid. It's limited now because Google has limited it as it finishes the SDK. Speaking of limited, my Apple TV does a fraction of what my Roku does for twice the cost. It functionality improvements have been notoriously slow from Apple and mainly of the you need a cable subscription to use this type. I choose to use Google products and services so they collect with my approval in order to make those products and services serve me better. That's their whole business concept and I agree to it in the TOS. If that upsets you then that's your problem. You bias oozes out. That's a shame because it seems to have induced self-imposed limitations on some great things. Not a good look.

Good follow up. Now you're using it right. It's radio, plain and simple. My usage model is exactly the same. I use radio for when I want to listen to specific music I don't own, iTunes match for my music, and iTunes radio for radio. Occasionally I use slacker or rdio's radio for radio, but I've found iTunes radio just seems to nail my preferences at the time better. I just wish they would fix the low volume on it. I keep my $7.99 Google All Access alive for now in hopes I can switch to it from rdio when the iOS app drops.

I'm curious how you feel iTunes radio measures up to Rdio's radio for your tastes.

I've found iTunes Radio does better on my tastes than Rdio, EXCEPT electronic. Then they both suck and I use and just feed the stuff I like into my Rdio collection.

I'm glad I'm not the only one that noticed iTunes Radio's volume is very low. I switch to Rdio and forget and my ears get blasted, lol Their sound quality just seems MUCH better. Songza seems to have the best song quality (to my ears anyways) but the difference isn't enough to make me miss it terribly.

I do wish they'd add some additional functionality to iTunes Radio on the Mac though. It seems you don't have as many options for eliminating certain kinds of tracks etc thru iTunes like you do on iOS with iTunes Radio, unless I'm just overlooking something stupid.


I didn't see anything with iTunes genius. If you own music it's great for your electronic music, but other than that this service is glitchy has heck. There's all sorts of problems with music playback and music collection. Songs play back often, no variety, and no clean songs when you want them. Your thoughts?

I've been delighted to discover that, even though I don't subscribe to iTunes Match, all my old iTunes purchases are included in iTunes Radio so I can stream old albums just like stations. That makes free iTunes Radio much more valuable to me than any pay service out there.

Technically it's a new feature of the new iOS 7 music app rather than iTunes Radio directly which us accessed through the left most pane in the new Music app. That makes the new iOS 7 Music app among the best kept secrets in all of iOS 7's myriad of new features. It's a miracle!

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Sadly, I still find that even with 100+ "play more like this songs", I am hear lots of repetitions and not getting much in variety, even though my these songs run a gamut of genres. I have the station set to Discovery and within 30 minutes, I will have a repeat. I often find myself flipping back to Pandora in the car.

Interesting. I haven't played it long enough to notice that, but that is a definite downer. I always thought Pandora was bad with repetition, not with repeating songs, but with starting stations with or initially playing the same songs early in the players.

I pay $4/month to Slacker for an important feature: offline streaming if my favorite stations for when I have a poor data connection. I wish iTunes Radio had an offline feature.

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Would be great for us, but would also give us no reason to purchase songs from iTunes.....not good for business

iTunes + iTunes Radio is definitely the way it should be. iTunes Radio is by far the best at music recommendation, especially if you "tune" your station to discovery over hits (which Apple doesn't mention anywhere), then when you find something you really like, it's an easy impulse buy.
Streaming is horrible for music and it only works for college students who would otherwise pirate. If everyone had streaming, the music industry would completely collapse.

I use the same setup. Rdio for streaming specific artists and copying to my iPhone. iTunes Radio for "radio station" type listening. Works perfectly for me. :)

Looking forward to giving it a go but iTunes Radio hasn't reached Scotland (UK) yet. Any word on the timetable for rolling it out?

I use iTunes Radio for discover. I love the Top 100 rap channel. Allows me to stay current on tending popular music without listening to FM radio. I add the songs I like to my wish list and typically buy 90% of them. I subscribe to iTunes Match which is an awesome value.

I like listening to the same songs over and over.

I use iTunes Radio a lot with my Apple TV to fill the room with music. I don't think I've ever used it on any of my iOS devices or my Mac. It's much better than Pandora. But since it's just a "radio" and not a "pick whatever song you want" type of thing, it can't compare with services such as Spotify. But since I *can* use it with iOS and the free Spotify accounts can't, it might be better than Spotify on that front.

Just let my Spotify premium subscription expire. For my needs, it suits me fine. Wasn't using Spotify as much as I had been because I find the iTunes Radio mix works well. Granted, my stations are Dave Matthews Band, U2, and the like, so nothing that obscure.

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For music discovery, nothing beats Rhapsody. They have tons of playlists made by experts, and allow you to browse music by hundreds of genres.

It really needs work. You type an artist in, and the playlist is way off, or all over the place, with little offerings of the artist you want to follow. I would like to see mostly the artist you selected, and music of the same style.

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I use iTunes radio on my macs only cuz I don't have ios7 yet. I don't use the customize a station feature that much but I love the curated stations. Much better than FM could ever be and the stations for niche genres are excellent. 2 thumbs up for iTunes radio!!!

I am loving iTunes Radio. Aside from the low volume which is my only issue with it. I was thinking of subscribing to match again but when I had it before i was just so annoyed at the slow rate it made my music available. Have they improve since two years ago? I wonder also does it improve the sound quality on iTunes Radio...

"How do you listen to music on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC?"

I long ago converted my to digital starting in like 1999. And in my life i've thrown away few records/cds that i bought. plus my pops has a large music collection. Thus i have a nice large collection.

So I listen to music on my 64 GB iphone. I like my music local. I have installed but never ever use Pandora, Songza, etc. I'm not on ios 7 so i dont' use itunes Radio. Largely because a lot of what i listen to is underground that's not on these services but rather are on mix tape sites instead. And some of the stuff i have is also the sort of stuff guys sold out the trunk back in the day as opposed to mainstream stuff so it's not available on these sites cause it's out of print or never was in print. I also have lots of dj mix tapes that are old. The big reason though is i'm not looking to be surprised by the next song like a radio. I know what artist i want to hear and i play it. I know the songs and i play it. I know if i want to hear something new and i have probably a back log of 40 albums that i've barely listened to for lack of time (often cause i listen to lots of podcasts and audiobooks in addition to music). So many of these services don't let you just play whatever you want when you want without paying. And why pay for something when i already own it. I also don't listen to much mainstream pop music these days. So I don't need many of these sites. And on my PC i got a large hardrive full of music to listen to.

Oh another thing about streaming services like pandora or itunes radio is i don't have a great data connection in my area at all so streaming generally sucks because it cuts out of just endlessly buffers so it's not normally a great solution.

I have 20k songs in Google Music too instead of itunes match cause, first, it's free, second it's FREE, and third i've got nothing bought from Itunes.

Spotify,Pandora,iTunes Radio (In that order). Is how I'm currently doing my streaming. 8gb of my MP3 library chillen on my iPhone5

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I'm not very moved by it honestly. It didn't seem like a good enough service or deal to pry me away from pandora and torch music.

I decided to listen all my music from streeming since I lost all my music 3 years ago. There is a before and after i tadio. Before: i moved betwen pandora and spotify, and vpn one when I was travelling ourside states. Good : spotify has a very good streeming buffer and 20 millions songs data base, I was going out from pandora (1 million data base) but better streaming than spotify. I use streeming at home and a lot in my car from my celular data perfect. After: a saved 15 bucks a month, works "ok" for streeming when I use in my car, genius works very good (you have to learn some set ups to obtain the maximum benefits), friendly interfase, I can share my stations with my friends.. Apple did not make s lot of noise about this product..why? Because Jobs is not there? Because... But for sure they are going to charge us in the future, by now, lets enjoy this excellent service !

I LOVE iHeart radio for streaming music. I use my local playlists on my iPhone to listen to music. I use that when 3G is spotty and I want to listen to music.

Spotify keeps me happy so far, it's ok on discovery (building radio stations from my Starred List works reasonably well), and I haven't been overly concerned about the 4000 song limit per device yet. Am thinking of paying for Match to bring in many thousands of songs from the Mac and giving iTunes Radio a longer try. It's too bad Spotify doesn't integrate in some easy way with iTunes but I have not much hope that it ever will given that they are competitors.

An all-you-can eat Audible & Kindle account, now that's something that I would jump at!

I am still deciding how I feel about iTunes Radio. I am using it at home to try and get a feel for it, but I use Slacker for 3.99 a month as well. I like being able to download stations for the gym and in the car. I do pay for Match and have enjoyed that for the last couple years. It is worth it for sure.

Currently I use just the opposite set up as you Ally. I use Pandora to discover and Spotify to save for later via playlist or by simply "Staring" the music for shuffle play later. Spotify has great sound quality and I really like sharing music back and forth with people. I just created a station on iTunes radio that matches the one Ive tweaked on Pandora for years and will see how it goes. The biggest attraction for me is the sheer size of Apples catalog. We'll see how it goes.