Apple's iRadio tries to stay in tune

Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet

Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, introduces the new iTunes Radio during the keynote address of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. (June 10, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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With millions of songs available at every Internet- connected soul's fingertips, it is easier than ever to discover new music.

But all those choices can be daunting and time-consuming, which is why Internet services such as Pandora and Spotify have become so successful. It's also why Apple has jumped into the fray with iRadio.

Now, nearly a month since launching the service, Apple's plans to take market share away from Pandora are starting to take shape. After all, at this point, iRadio's database doesn't match Pandora's customization based on years of listeners' thumbs-up/thumbs-down recommendations and the company's proprietary algorithms on what music fans of a specific artist want to hear.

Apple's iRadio is similar to Pandora in that you can create a station based on a specific artist, song or genre. However, it weights its playlists more toward songs and artists that are already in the listener's iTunes library, info that Pandora doesn't necessarily know. It also offers three settings -- "Hits," "Variety" and "Discovery" -- though after a few weeks of casual listening, the distinctions between those choices seems pretty minimal.

Choosing the "Discovery" setting on "Billy Joel Radio," for example, will "introduce" you to artists like Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Fleetwood Mac. Who would have thought people who liked Joel would also like McCartney? Oh, right, everyone.

"Discovery" worked a little better for new artists, with the station for Seaford native Matthew Koma introducing people to singer-songwriter Jayme Dee. Unfortunately, the station also thought Koma fans would want to listen to "X Factor" also-ran Chris Rene and Third Eye Blind. Pandora wouldn't do that, and the ability to skip only six songs per hour was not nearly enough.

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Because Apple can't compete, for now, with Pandora's recommendations, it's looking to leverage its music industry clout to help iRadio out. Last week, iRadio was playing the new Pearl Jam album, "Lightning Bolt," in its entirety before its release, as well as offering a special playlist from "Guest DJ" Katy Perry, who served up songs from her upcoming "Prism" album alongside her favorites from Robyn, Haim and Drake.

That kind of star power, along with the curiosity factor and the service's prime placement on iPhones and iPads, will likely make iRadio a stop on music lovers' regular route for new tunes, but it probably won't lead anyone to abandon Pandora or their friends' Spotify playlists anytime soon.

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