We’ve all heard that Apple plans to launch its own streaming music discovery/radio service, but it has been delayed by royalty negotiations breaking down. But now, one report details that a new set of files discovered in the iPad music app may signal new functionality and shed more light on the predicted service.
Discovered on a jailbroken iPad running iOS 6.1, button files are labeled with “radio buy” in the file names. Says 9to5mac.com:
“Having a look around our newly jailbroken iPads with iFunBox, we happened on a new set of files in the iPad Music.app. The files are called some variation of “radio button” with an icon that looks similar to the radio icon that used to be in iTunes for Mac (it was traded for a more prominent top location in iTunes 11 without the antenna tower). The iPad music app currently doesn’t have any radio functionality, so our first thought was that Apple would be adding an iTunes-like ‘traditional’ streaming radio to the iPad. Notably, jailbroken iPhones don’t contain these files in the Music app.
More interestingly, the name of these button files and are labeled with “buy” in the filename. This could imply exciting new functionality. We heard no shortage of rumors that Apple planned to take on the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world with its own ‘Radio’ service, and Bloomberg predicted a Q1 2013 (current) launch…
Bloomberg alleged that executives from Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp, and Sony Corp’s music division met with Apple at the company’s Cupertino headquarters to discuss radio plans.
Talks are centered in part around how to share ad revenue and a deal could be reached by mid-November, with Apple starting a service within the first three months of 2013, said the people, who asked not to be named because discussions are still in progress.
According to Bloomberg: “With sales of music downloads slowing, Apple and record companies are seeking new ways for customers to discover and buy digital music.”
Some interesting context that could play into this: Apple’s iPod nanos have long had the ability to play FM radio and make iTunes purchases from songs tagged on the iPod. If you are listening to a radio station that supports iTunes Tagging, you can tag a song you hear so you can preview and purchase it later on the iTunes Store. Songs that can be tagged are marked with a tag icon next to the song title or on the Now Playing screen. If the above buttons are taken at their literal meaning, Apple could offer to sell stations of music based on particular songs, artists, or genres.
RBR-TVBR observation: When and if Apple launches a music discovery service like Pandora, it will piggyback off of iTunes. Radio stations that stream online may be able to get onto the new Apple service if it’s positioned anything like iHeartRadio (meaning they stream radio stations, too) and use iTunes tagging to share song download revenue. It can currently be done via the on-air HD Radio signal or, as the story mentioned, via iPod Nanos and RDS, but could the new service offer song buys as well from the stations’ online stream? It would be nice.
Apple is also reportedly talking about more flexible music licenses than Pandora since it could to point people directly to its iTunes store to generate sales. Apple’s streaming licenses would also allow it to play a selected artist more times than Pandora’s rights allow it to.
In addition, we’ve heard speculation that Apple’s service will better monetize mobile ads—a hurdle Pandora and Facebook have been dealing with. A Bloomberg story noted ongoing negotiations with labels have centered around advertising. In addition to an upfront fee, labels are seeking a percentage of ad sales and the ability to insert their own commercials for artists. This is a bit of a new revenue model and Apple also sees the service as a way to grow its iAd mobile ad platform.