Feature

Apple's rumored iRadio picks up steam: What can music fans expect?

After inking a deal with Warner Music Group, the company hopes to debut its new music service at WWDC next week

Even though it's already late to the game, Apple still plans to launch a new streaming-music platform that critics have christened iRadio, according to reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The Pandora-like radio service has reportedly been in the works since last summer, but Apple has struggled to convince the three major record labels to ink licensing deals. Now, with the software reportedly ready to go, it's putting on extra pressure in hopes of launching iRadio at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference that begins on June 10.

The Times reported on Sunday that Apple has signed a deal with Warner Music Group for both recorded music and music publishing rights, or "the part of the business that deals with songwriting." Apple only has a deal for recorded music rights with Universal Music Group, and is also "still in talks with Sony Music Entertainment and Sony's separate publishing arm, Sony/ATV, whose songwriters include Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga," says the Times.

The main problem for publishers is that Apple has been unwilling to "compensate [companies] at higher rates than what is currently paid by most internet radio services such as Pandora," says Alex Pham at Billboard. For example, Pandora, which boasts 70 million subscribers, pays music publishers 4 percent of its ad revenue.

Apple had argued that it shouldn't have to pay more because, as it points out, iRadio would be linked directly to music sales through the iTunes store and its 500 million+ accounts. But the labels remained firm, and Apple appears willing to concede in order to get iRadio off and running. Under the terms of the Warner Music Group deal, Apple would be paying 10 percent, more than double Pandora's rate.

So what else do we know about the service itself?

1. It will be free to use. But users should expect audio ads similar to what they hear on Pandora. Google Play All-Access and Spotify premium, it should be noted, charge monthly subscription fees yet come with unlimited access to a deep well of music to listen to whenever you want.

2. iRadio will be a discovery engine more than anything. Apple has struggled to build a complementary funnel to its iTunes library. Its social music platform, Ping, was discontinued in September 2012 and is widely seen as one of Apple's more spectacular failures.

3. And it will reportedly be tailored primarily to the iPhone. Unlike Pandora, iRadio will let users rewind songs, and it will have a button to allow one-click purchasing.

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