While they were busy not killing the Mac and the Mac Pro, it seems Apple also had some ideas about how to not kill music. Amidst hair pulling and gnashing of teeth over how streaming will impact the future of music business models, Apple’s answer is spelled out in their press release:

“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.”

Whether iTunes Radio specifically works or not, this seems an obvious model. Music recordings as a business work so long as the people selling them – whether a massive label or an individual artist – can work out ways of selling them and not just streaming them.

Apple even lays out what it thinks makes sense to stream in the same release:

Whether it’s an exclusive single from an up-and-coming band or a pre-release stream of an entire album, iTunes Radio has it all. iTunes Radio will also be home to special events including live streams direct from the iTunes Festival in London and other exclusive iTunes Sessions.

Those buy links were prominent in demos in the WWDC keynote.

It seems a direction people recording music are already going: stream the whole album first, give away promotional exclusives, then offer sales of the real album (often supplementing digital with physical). It’s how, most recently, readers got acquainted with Jon Hopkins.

There’s reason to assume this may be a long game. While musicians may well wind up being as impoverished as always, the companies serving up the streams might eventually want to profit. (You know, instead of actually losing money: a worthy question to ask of Spotify.)

For now, it’s far too early to judge iTunes Radio’s chances of success. And certainly, you shouldn’t expect iTunes to be an indie darling: it seems many independent artists and small labels are paying just to get on iTunes, left out of many promotional deals (like iTunes Festival, with headliners like Justin Timberlake). But if you want Apple’s take on the idea – and why they may have earned cooperation from labels frustrated with services like Spotify – it’s all there in the black ink.

Personally, I’ll bet on any of the players whose ink is black over the ones streaming red.

Image courtesy Apple.

  • SomeDude

    “And certainly, you shouldn’t expect iTunes to be an indie darling:” yep, that’s the only keynote announcement that didn’t get me interested. I think iRadio won’t be of much help to indies.

  • Freeks

    And where is the news?

    I have bought many tracks from Spotify’s “Buy” link.

    (i have even SOLD tracks via that :D)

    But in general sales of MP3’s is if not dead then at least dying. No real need of owning the file thanks to Apple’s iPhone and Spotify app that let’s you have all tracks with you all the time. I buy tracks when i want to have them on Traktor.

    • SomeDude

      hmm.. Where I live (Europe), Spotify has no buy button anywhere… Maybe it’s only limited to certain countries ? Where do you live ?

    • Peter Kirn

      Exactly. And I think this is fundamentally different from Spotify attempting to be a catalog of everything. Apple is clearly pushing you toward buying the music you hear.

      Oh, and wanting to have them when you DJ – that’s a potential customer. I think there may be other cases, too – and some musicians wanting to keep their work off Spotify for the reason above. 😉

      It’s also why I raise the question of whether Spotify’s business model is sustainable enough to keep it in business.

    • Frankie

      I live in Finland. Spotify has removed the BUY button:
      “We’re currently not offering new download purchases on Spotify. You can still use downloads you’ve already purchased.”

      Funny thing in the Keynote that they played Led Zeppelin as they know it is not in Spotify.

  • Gepardek

    With iTunes Radio onboard I lost any hope for Grooveshark client for iPhone without jailbreaking.

    iTunes Radio is available only in US so who cares anyway?

    • Peter Kirn

      Apple plans an international rollout. Seems they’re announcing this in advance of iOS 7, so … let’s give them *some* time.

    • Gepardek

      It must be noted that it is great way to sell more music. I know tons of people buying only those single radio tracks they are actually dig. So it is great way to remind about great tracks you forgot that you want to have with you everyday on your device with a little bit of recommendation. So more compulsive buying – yay.
      Great for artists in iTunes, isn’t it? But we don’t know how the recommendation and search function will work so I’m sceptical about indie bands / musicans reaching new audience past big music companies. Can you promote your band in radio (like, eg)? It’s interesting.

      I gave them *some* time to make Siri talking Polish and to at last fix some POIs in their Maps (at least gas stations, please) but they failed. So I’m not very optimistic.