After months of speculation, technology and music giant Apple has finally revealed plans to launch a music streaming competitor to compete with streaming technology start ups such as Spotify and Pandora who have been eating away at iTunes traditional dominance in music as consumers migrate to an access over ownership model.

The move follows the recent launch of Google Music All AccessRdio jumping into the Vdio arena, Spotify celebrating one year in Australia, and Pandora, who may be the undisputed global streaming service leader – last month popping the cork on reaching 200 million subscribers.

Unveiled at their annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco overnight, Apple has dubbed their new streaming service iTunes Radio and plans to make quick ground on similar services such as Pandora who lays claim to nearly 80% of internet radio traffic in the US, a category which has grown 33% since 2007.

Apple finally made eleventh-hour deals with the major music labels so they could announce iTunes Radio at the conference. According to report, the company first signed with Universal Music, then Warner just last week. Sony Music Entertainment and Sony’s separate publishing arm Sony/ATV were reportedly the last to sign just days before the announcement.

This has not been the first time that Apple have had a run in with Sony/ATV. Late last year Apple’s iPhone 5 music streaming deal with the publisher was quashed by Sony/ATV, the incident subsequently delaying iTunes 11 the dispute stemming from an October 2012 debacle where the companies couldn’t come to an agreeable negotiation over a per-song royalty fee.

Apple also run into trouble over its proposed royalty rates for the iRadio service in March this year, deemed “too cheap” by industry figures criticising the iTunes makers initial offer of just US 6 cents per 100 songs streamed, half of what Pandora offers, and falling way under the standard set by the Copyright Royalty Board, at 21 cents per 100 songs streamed.

But those disputes appear to have been settled, and now Apple has unveiled a service which unsurprisingly bares a striking similarity in features to Pandora. Users will be able to create themed internet radio stations based on specific songs, and Apple will be curated a handful of “featured” radio stations too.

Apple may have the upper hand against Pandora however, as they plan to leverage their dominance in music sales on iTunes to get exclusive music from new and popular artists and pre-release streams of highly-anticpated albums which has been a popular promotional tool in the iTunes Store for a number of years.

Daft Punk most recently made their album available to stream on iTunes a week prior to its release on May 21 leading to the second highest first week sales of a record this year. The French duo joined a parade of 35 other artists who have taken advantage of Apple’s promotional program since it began in August 2011.

Pandora’s major selling point in internet radio is the music genome project, where the company has sought to analyse and categorise the worlds music. But Apple plan to counter this by tapping into their vast database of iTunes purchases to analyse what people are listening to.

iTunes Radio

Apple say that iTunes Radio will offer you a personalized experience on day one based on your listening history and past purchases from iTunes. In addition, if you’re listening to a song you like from iTunes Radio or your music library you will be able to have a station built around those.

iTunes Radio unsurprisingly is also tightly integrated with the iTunes Store, allowing users to purchase songs they like instantly.

“iTunes Radio is an incredible way to listen to personalized radio stations which have been created just for you,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “It’s the music you love most and the music you’re going to love, and you can easily buy it from the iTunes Store with just one click.”

You’ll be able to listen to iTunes Radio on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, PC, and Apple TV. All your stations and your history are stored in iCloud, so if you stop playing a station on one device, you can pick it up on another with no active syncing required.

iTunes Radio will be ad-supported and free for everyone. If you are a user of iTunes Match, Apple’s service that lets you sync your iTunes library to the cloud, you will get iTunes Radio ad-free. iTunes Match costs $24.99 for a year.

Unfortunately iTunes Radio will launch as a US-only service. But given the wide availability of iTunes Store around the world the rest of us hopefully won’t have to wait to long to try out the service.

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