iTunes Radio Not Winning Over The Hearts And Minds Of Pandora Users

iTunes-Radio-three-up-iPhone-5

Before iTunes Radio came along, everyone thought it would be the death knell of good old Pandora. But it doesn’t look like Pandora is going anywhere: even those Pandora users who have access to iTunes Radio either don’t use it, or listen to Pandora alongside iTunes Radio.

According to a recent survey of more than 800 iOS device owners, those who use iTunes Radio either have gone back to Pandora exclusively or are using Pandora in conjunction with Apple’s service. Although iTunes Radio compares favorably to Pandora in features, the issue is poor song selection… or, at least, consumer perception of poor song selection.

Here’s how it breaks down. 72% of consumers surveyed were running iOS 7, and 40% of those people had tried iTunes radio. From there, only 8% of those who tried iTunes Radio ditched Pandora in favor of it, while 44% were splitting their listening time equally. The “overall experience” of iTunes Radio is generally considered either positive or very positive for 66% of those surveyed, compared to 78% of those surveyed about Pandora.

The major issue is iTunes Radio doesn’t play songs people want to hear as much as Pandora: a 63% to 72%. “Pandora and iTunes Radio can peacefully coexist and together take tremendous share from broadcast radio,” concludes the report.

Have you tried iTunes Radio? I tried it a few times, then never used it again in favor of Rdio and Rdio’s radio stations. What about you? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Holt Lipman

    My biggest problem with iTunes Radio is after an hour or so, an ad is played between every song. It starts at about 4-5 songs without a commercial, but after 50-60 minutes of playing, there is a commercial between every song.

  • LolaBido

    Maybe I use a radio service very differently than most people, but I am very disappointed in iTunes Radio. I tried to set up a channel for Yes (the band). I figured I would get other proggy type music. I got the Who, Boston, Styx, Foreigner, Toto, Duran Duran, and Huey Lewis and the News. Who would put any of those guys in a Yes playlist, or any list of compatible bands? I couldn’t find any way to edit out unwanted artists.
    I tried a couple of the Progressive channels but they were all progressive dance channels. I tried to make a couple of custom channels but that didn’t work for me either.
    I haven’t used Pandora in a few years but when I was using it, it was much better.
    No way I would pay for it, but I did manage to find a couple of channels.
    Just my opinion of course.

  • TheMadTurtle

    My wife used to use Pandora on the Apple TV – especially for children’s songs for our young boys. Now she uses iTunes Radio and I think she’s pretty happy with it. I would imagine this is the sort of experience Apple was aiming for as she has also bought some of the boys’ favorite songs through it as well.

  • David Berezin

    LolaBido – Create your new station with Yes. Click on the new station anywhere but the center where the play button is. This will expand the radio station edit box. Here you can add more artists (Add Artist, Song, or Genre). I added groups like Genesis and King Crimson. You can also tune the station from here for Hits, Variety or Discovery. You can also hover over songs in History and click the right arrow to “never play songs like”, “play more like this”, etc.

    I don’t think the iTunes Radio is as good as matching up the songs or genre as Pandora (I use both), but I hope this helps.

  • David Berezin

    Holt – Both Pandora and iTunes Radio will have ads. I’ve been using Pandora for years, but I pay for the upgraded service, so I get no ads. Also with iTunes radio, if you pay the $25 yearly for iTunes Match you don’t get any ads. I use both services and go back and forth between the two.

  • marcsuwrath

    I already had an iTunes Match account, so I’m getting access to ad free iTunes Radio and I really love it so far. Once I figured out how to edit stations to fine tune the artist selections, I’ve not had any of the problems that LolaBido described. The simplicity of song purchases (combined with finger print scanning on the 5S) has been really nice and actually encouraged me to buy more (could be read as a con, I suppose) but it works really well.
    The only complaint I have is that the “never play this song again” feature doesn’t seem to work, at least not on kids music stations. I assume there isn’t as sizable a catalog to draw from in that genre, but it’s also especially annoying when I have to repeatedly blacklist Barney.

  • iHuby

    My biggest problem with iTunes Radio is the lack of variety. I played an 80s station, and within one hour, I heard two songs by Level 42, Wham, and The Fine Young Cannibals. The Genius playlists in iTunes display the same lack of variety.

  • jjones

    The biggest problem with iTunes Radio is that you cannot shuffle stations like in Pandora.

  • Market_Mayhem

    I’ve used Pandora but I prefer iTunes Radio. Once you learn how to fine tune your stations you can get a lot of similar music by different artists. I was experimenting with my favorite Freestyle but that came up short. However, by choosing Italo-Disco, it pulled up lots of Freestyle music. I haven’t had a lot of time yet, but I think by using that slider (Hits, Variety, Discovery) when you create a station you can somewhat fine tune the music. Also, you can combine various types of music into one station when you create a station by inputting artists of your choosing so you have a whole stack of similar music by different artists. I believe Apple should trying tweaking iTunes Radio a bit more. On the whole, I like it more than Pandora because iTunes Radio has longer versions of songs which I prefer that those radio edit length songs.

  • gettysburg11s

    I like iTunes Radio. I agree that it works much better if you tune the station appropriately. Its not totally obvious how to do it. You have to press play on a station you created or one of the preset ones, and press the circled “i” at the top of the screen (on iPhone or iPad). You can then make your settings selections.

    As for price and selection, iTunes Radio wins big here. 23 million songs vs. Pandora’s 1 million, and $25/year for iTunes Match (Ad free iTunes Radio) vs. $4/month for Pandora.

    I understand loyalty, but it doesn’t make that much sense to keep Pandora.

  • Shane Bryson

    I honestly cannot wrap my head around why the debate is between Pandora and iTunes Radio. Why is anyone using anything else other than Spotify? With Spotify, you can choose any song, search for it and listen to it, entire albums, or basically anything on your desktop FOR FREE. You also get the added benefit of radio stations via mobile and desktop. Then if you choose to pay, you can search anything you want on your mobile. You get every single feature of Pandora and iTunes Radio for free with the added flexibility of the desktop app. It destroys the competition in feature set. Pandora should be dead by now and iTunes Radio was DOA.

    *Drops Mic*

  • Holt Lipman

    David Berezin: I cannot subscribe to Match, too many items in my library. I have been a long time subscriber to Pandora, and get no ads there…

  • JohnSWilson

    So if you’re Pandora you just lost 8% of customers on iOS and half of iOS customers are now listening to 50% (!) less music. Which means lower ad penetration. All within the span of one month and ZERO marketing dollars being spent on iTunes Radio. How is this good news?

  • BigJoeD

    I prefer iHeartRadio. Only one Ad at startup.

  • BigJoeD

    SIMPLE! Because Spotify isn’t FREE for mobile devices.

    I honestly cannot wrap my head around why the debate is between Pandora and iTunes Radio. Why is anyone using anything else other than Spotify? With Spotify, you can choose any song, search for it and listen to it, entire albums, or basically anything on your desktop FOR FREE. You also get the added benefit of radio stations via mobile and desktop. Then if you choose to pay, you can search anything you want on your mobile. You get every single feature of Pandora and iTunes Radio for free with the added flexibility of the desktop app. It destroys the competition in feature set. Pandora should be dead by now and iTunes Radio was DOA.

    *Drops Mic*

  • ElSaborAsiatico

    “72% of consumers surveyed were running iOS 7, and 40% of those people had tried iTunes radio. From there, only 8% of those who tried iTunes Radio ditched Pandora in favor of it, while 44% were splitting their listening time equally.”

    What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing here indicates how many consumers surveyed who tried iTunes Radio were existing Pandora users. Are we meant to assume that 100% of these consumers were Pandora users? Neither this article, the one it links to, or the one that links to, appears to offer that important piece of information. None of these articles links to the original survey, so I’m not finding this very useful.

    I think the root of Apple’s problem getting onboard with iTunes Radio lies in this quote: “the service lags behind an overall consumer perception mainly due to poorer automated song selection.”

    The problem is really one of consumer perception of poorer automated song selection. iTunes Radio offers three song selection settings for its stations: Hits (more popular tunes), Discovery (more eclectic selections), and Variety (a mixture of Hits and Discovery). Which is great, but Apple made the bizarre choice to bury this important setting in the interface — you have to just somehow know that touching the tiny “i” button will bring up those options. And it defaults to Hits, the least varied of the three. I myself didn’t know this existed until my wife mentioned it, and before then I was among those complaining about the lack of song variety. I will wager that the vast majority of people with this complaint simply aren’t aware that they can control this aspect of the stations, due to this poor interface design choice.

    In any case, I don’t think iTunes Radio should be expected to be a Pandora killer. When I first tried it, my immediate impression was not that it would appeal to Pandora users, but rather that it would appeal to people who either had never used Pandora, or had tried it but didn’t care for it. I’m in that latter category; I tried Pandora for a while and it just didn’t catch on with me, but I’m enjoying and regularly using iTunes Radio. I believe it’s basically because of convenience (it’s built into the Music app, so I don’t have to open a separate app), a pleasing and intuitive (except for that one glaring exception) interface, and, ironically, terrific song selection (now that I know about the “hidden” option). If Radio succeeds, it won’t be because it captures whatever percentage of iPhone users that are Pandora fans, but because it wins over some percentage of everybody else.

  • Moebius

    I am one of the people who did not renew their Pandora subscription since I am already an iTunes Match subscriber and it includes Radio.

    See, all you had to do was ask.

  • jimfan0106

    The one thing I noticed is iTunes Radio sometimes does not show the artwork, takes a few seconds longer than Pandora to play the next song and being an iTunes Match customer, I should have unlimited skips!

  • nikromatt

    I stopped using Pandora sometime ago. I got tired of hearing the the same songs over and over within a station. Plus after long periods of playing a set station it would tend to wander so far away from the original preset that I would have to quit Pandora.

    I’m loving iTunes Radio so far, don’t have match and have not been bothered by the few ads I’ve encountered. I’m also discovering new bands because iTunes music selcation is so much more vast than Pandora’s. In the years I’ve had and used Pandora, I’ve never once heard or found a new band or musician.

  • rachelgilchrist

    Because I’m in Canada I can’t even try out itunes Radio. That goes for anyone outside the US because they haven’t released it outside the country. If they want it to be successful they need to release it to everyone.

  • Brian101

    I like Slacker better than both of these options. Simple Mac-like designs, real DJs, and lots of good music. And- unlimited skips are even available if you do a monthly plan.

  • TheMartinDobson

    I’ve subscribed to iTunes match for the entire duration that it has been available… almost 2 years so I can even go commercial free… But I’m 100km north of the Canada/US border and am unable to use the iTunes Radio service.

  • Shane Bryson

    SIMPLE! Because Spotify isn’t FREE for mobile devices.

    I honestly cannot wrap my head around why the debate is between Pandora and iTunes Radio. Why is anyone using anything else other than Spotify? With Spotify, you can choose any song, search for it and listen to it, entire albums, or basically anything on your desktop FOR FREE. You also get the added benefit of radio stations via mobile and desktop. Then if you choose to pay, you can search anything you want on your mobile. You get every single feature of Pandora and iTunes Radio for free with the added flexibility of the desktop app. It destroys the competition in feature set. Pandora should be dead by now and iTunes Radio was DOA.

    *Drops Mic*

    You are actually VERY wrong. Spotify radio is FREE on mobile devices, giving it all the same functionality of iTunes Radio and Pandora on mobile with the added benefit of being able to search individual tracks and albums on the desktop.

    Just a bit of advice, it might be a good idea to actually read a comment before you reply, as I stated all of this in my original comment.

  • Truffol

    Apple is only playing catch up with iTunes Radio and as a product it isn’t even superior to Spotify or Pandora. To take over a first mover (Pandora) you need a much greater product / value proposition, which Spotify is when it was released. Apple cannot possibly expect to convince the majority to switch over to iTunes Radio.

  • houstonmacbro

    I am paid Pandora listener and an iTunes Match subscriber (paid). I must say that so far, I am disappointed in iTunes Radio and feel Pandora is much broader in what it plays. It seems to work well for known bands, not so good for unusual music. I created a Brian Eno station and it started playing a lot of rock and avant garde stuff. Not cool. On the Sam Cooke station I created, it played a bunch of Motown music, but it repeated quickly—within the hour I was hearing stuff again.

    I am keeping Pandora and will keep iTunes Match for different reasons than to listen to the radio feature.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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