How Google Pre-Empted Apple’s iRadio Announcement


Earlier this week, Google beat Apple to the punch by launching a streaming subscription music service before Cuperino could unveil its own offering, iRadio.

How did Google managed to do it? Apple has all the music industry clout, so how could Google swing a deal first? Because Google Play Music All Access is essentially a clone of services like Rdio and Spotify, and the contract terms of services like that are easy to copy.

Apple’s iRadio? It’s a wholly different beast.

The Verge is reporting that the major hold-up for iRadio is just that no one’s ever done anything like it. It’s not an a la carte subscription music service so much as a hybrid web and radio service, and so the industry is being a lot slower in signing up.

Google chose to offer a standard subscription music service very similar to those built by Spotify and Rdio, and that meant the terms had largely been established, according to multiple sources close to the talks. Apple, on the other hand, is pioneering a hybrid web and radio service — one that resembles Pandora but melds it with some on-demand features, the sources said. The licensing agreement had to be created from scratch.

“Of course [Apple’s] negotiations were going to take longer,” one of the sources said.

In addition, Google was willing to pay advances to music labels for licensed content, something Apple has historically been unwilling to do. That greased some wheels.

iRadio when it launches is likely to be a music radio station discovery service linked to iTunes, in which anyone with an iPhone or an iPad can access “iRadio” to listen to songs they might like, which will then be purchaseable through iTunes with a single click for unlimited listens. It’ll solve an iTunes discoverability problem while simultaneously supporting Apple’s downloads-based iTunes business, which is a multi-billion dollar business for Apple with no signs of slowing down.