Why iTunes Radio is not a replacement for services like Rdio, Spotify, and Beats Music

Before replacing a service like Rdio, Spotify, or Beats Music with iTunes Radio, here's what you need to know!

I recently reviewed Beats Music and the feedback made me realize that a lot of people are confused about the differences between it, similar services like Spotify and Rdio, and iTunes Radio. They're really not the same, and it really matters. Here's why!

In my initial review of iTunes Radio for iOS, I found that I had a place for it in my streaming world but it wouldn't be replacing Rdio for me. Anyone who faithfully uses a service like Rdio or Spotify and values the ability to have complete control over their music should already understand where I'm coming from. These are what we call true on-demand streaming services. I hold the control in the palm of my hand. I can create custom track-by-track playlists, listen to complete albums all the way through, and much more.

When it comes to playing music I actually like, iTunes Radio does a fantastic job

iTunes Radio doesn't do any of the above, but it wasn't meant to. iTunes Radio in its current form is a music discovery tool that taps into one of the largest, most expansive music libraries on earth, iTunes. And that alone makes it worthwhile, even if it's not in the form many people want it to be in.

Up until Beats Music, I've always taken issue with how most streaming services curate music and predict what you want to hear. Most of this is because it's done by computers, not by humans. The only exception to this is Songza, which like Beats Music, has done a great job of curating music collections and recommending new artists and songs. But again, we're talking about curation done by humans, not computers.

When it comes to playing music I actually like, iTunes Radio does a fantastic job. I can customize my stations to play a group of artists and never play others. iTunes Radio always abides by this and serves up great results. Apple is known for obsessive attention to detail and iTunes curation is a great example of how that kind of behavior pays off. iTunes Radio is right up there with Songza and Beats Music when it comes to music discovery and curation.

We also can't forget Ping. Anyone remember it? Even though it never really caught on and was eventually canned, I'd bet that Apple obtained a lot of valuable data on people's listening habits. That in itself probably made it a worthwhile endeavor.

iTunes Radio as it exists today is aimed at people who prefer to own their music, not rent it

Even though iTunes Radio isn't my go to streaming service, it knows my tastes and preferences better than most. I just launch iTunes on my Mac while working and pick an artist based on my mood. I save the tracks I really like to my Wish List. Then every few days I go back and clean out my Wish List and add those saved tracks to an on-demand streaming service like Beats Music or Rdio. I can now go back and create playlists with those tracks and play them on-demand whenever I'd like. The last part is the crucial part for many of us, and something iTunes Radio doesn't allow.

iTunes Radio, at least as it exists today, is aimed at people who prefer to own their music, not rent it. iTunes serves up music it thinks you'll like and hopes you'll hit the purchase button. For those like me that have libraries as dynamic and ever changing as our wardrobes, iTunes Radio can become very costly on its own. It doesn't cater to the space currently occupied by services like Beats Music, Rdio, and Spotify — and it wasn't meant to. Perhaps in the future we'll be able to rent music from iTunes like we do movies and TV shows. Until that time comes, on-demand streaming services are still very different from what iTunes Radio has to offer.

Now it's your turn — what are you using for streaming music, what do you like about it, and what's still missing?