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There's a wealth of audio

beyond your own music library for free


Recently, we ran a new story about the folding of iTunes
Radio into the paid Apple Music service that caused
confusion among some readers, and in hindsight its
easy to guess why there is widespread confusion
(particularly outside the two countries that ever
had iTunes Radio, the US and Australia) about
that it actually is, and what it isn't. This
Pointers column will thus take a look at the
various dierent audio services under the
iTunes roof what's free, what's not,
what's changing, and what isn't and
most importantly, what features are being
seriously underused.
For those who never had it or never used
it, iTunes Radio was an addition to the
collection of Internet streams that iTunes
had always oered. Starting in 2013, users
in the US and later Australia could create
"stations" of music by picking an artist,
song, genre, or playlist of stu they liked, and
the "station" (that is to say, an endless selfgenerating playlist) would add songs from those
artists and others related to that style or other
elements using an algorithm. So, for example, if you
created a "station" focused around David Bowie, you'd
be likely to hear some of the work of Brian Eno, Talking
Heads, or Robert Fripp and others as well.

MacNN Apple Music User Guide 1.0


January 2016

Internet Radio is not iTunes Radio


Some readers believed that our story meant that
Internet Radio the collection of internet-based
"radio" stations (many were actual broadcast radio
stations, some were available online only) was being
made part of the for-pay subscription service. This is
not the case. Apple wouldn't have the rights to do this
even if it wanted to, and it doesn't. The collection of
Internet streams originally un-editable, but that
changed quickly was and remains part of the core
iTunes program and isn't the same thing as iTunes
Radio, which is moving from being ad-supported to
part of the paid Apple Music service (and thus
dropping the ads).
If you happen to be surfing the web and come across a
radio station's homepage, or a site that oers
streaming audio, chances are they will have a "listen
live" button somewhere. Click that, and very often
(but not universally always) iTunes will launch to play
the stream. It also adds that stream to the "Internet
Radio" collection, which consists mostly of stations
originally populated by Apple, so you can come back
to play the live stream again without having to find
the page you originally went
to.
The collection as a whole is
divided up into genres, and
there are generally hundreds
of stations in each genre, so
there's plenty to explore even
if you think you only like one
particular genre of music. It's
not just Top 40 or rock,
either all kinds of genres
are represented, from
classical to world music.
Once you find a station you
like, either from the existing
collection or one that you
added, you can start it playing
and then "hide" iTunes and
get on with whatever else
you're doing on the
computer, with the music
continuing to play (and
controllable by right-clicking
the iTunes icon in the dock).

Later we will show you exactly how to add nearly any


streaming radio station to the iTunes collection and
how to find it again on demand and more.
For now, just click around on a few stations you'll find,
first by clicking on the "radio tower" icon on the left
top side of iTunes 12, then exploring the amazing
amount of stations and the music they play,
broadcasting from all over the world and playing
nearly any type of music you can think of.
When iTunes Radio came along in iTunes 11.1 for US
and later Australian users, it did not replace the
Internet Radio collection; it was a second service
that offered two types of "stations" pre-set ones
created by Apple that covered basic genres and other
interests, and the ability to create your own
"stations" based on songs or artists or genres you
picked.
If you've ever used the US service Pandora, the selfcreated stations were very similar; you seeded the
station with music you knew you liked, and the
algorithm would find what it thought was
complementary music.

As with Pandora, you could tell the "station" that you


especially liked a particular song and wanted it to be
played again at some point, and that the artist or style
appealed to you, and you could "downvote" a song to
tell the algorithm it had made a poor choice. You
could also "skip" a certain number of songs per hour,
and would occasionally hear audio ads (later this
changed to iAd-based visual ads).
We wrote a previous Pointers column about how to
create your own "stations" in iTunes Radio, and
updated it when iTunes 12.2 came along and changed
some of the rules. In the later incarnation, creating a
"station" became easier, but it was more dependent on
you "rating" stu during the first few days for it to
fine-tune the selections down to a sure-fire run of new
and familiar songs you'd almost always enjoy.
It worked pretty well, actually, if you did your part and
rated stu frequently after a short while it "figured
you out" and you didn't need to do that anywhere near
as often but it still had a big problem: the reason
iTunes Radio was free was because it was adsupported. Those ads always broke the spell the finetuned music selections were weaving. They weren't
obnoxious, they just never fit into the mix. Those who
purchased iTunes Match, however, never heard the
ads -- a side benefit of the main purpose of iTunes
Match, which was to backup your entire music
collection to the cloud so you could access it
anywhere.

Creating a new custom station based on a song

Apple's iTunes Match service, which it still oers for


$25 per year, wasn't about radio except for allowing
members to skip songs on iTunes Radio more often
and eliminate the ads, but it was about streaming
music. It was and is a great idea making your entire
music collection available through streaming meant
you didn't need to carry much or any of your music on
the limited storage of your mobile device and it
was originally limited to 25,000 songs not purchased
from iTunes (and unlimited songs if you bought them

Rating iTunes Radio songs right from the miniplayer

from iTunes). Recently, Apple has upped the limit to


100,000 songs and unlimited iTunes song purchases.
What's more, and we've never met anyone else
outside of MacNN sta who knew this, but most of
that $25 per year actually went to artists (well, the
copyright holders, who in turn paid a portion to
performers and songwriters). This is because even
though you already paid for and owned the music
used, Apple's method of making the songs available
instantly simply "matching" songs it could identify
from your library or purchase history with the iTunes
version meant it was streaming songs, which is
technically a "performance" (in the sense of a radio or
Internet broadcast), so
royalties were due.

Streaming whether it's iTunes Match, Apple Music,


Spotify, or anyone else pays a pittance, but for
artists whose work gets streamed a lot, it starts to add
up. There's a wide debate about the low price
streamers pay compared to what artists get if you
bought the CD, or even the album on iTunes. Apple
tends to pay the most of the big services, but this is
relative it's not a lot more than the others pay, just
a bit more. If you really want to support a particular
artist, buy the CD in a store as well as listening to it
through streaming services. Think of it as a hardcopy
backup if you must.
Let's review: there's Internet Radio built into iTunes
on the Mac (not Music on iOS), and it is (and remains)
free of charge. There's iTunes Radio, which was only
available to the US and Australia but was free (but
showed/played ads, on both OS X and iOS). It will
now join the paid Apple Music service, but will lose
the ads and go worldwide, which makes more sense to
us.
Then there's iTunes Match, a service that costs $25
per year and stores your entire collection of music in
the cloud, or nearly so if you own more than
100,000 songs, it would take you a thousand days
(1,041 and two-thirds days, actually) of listening for
eight hours a day with no breaks before you would
hear a repeat, and again that 100,000-song limit
doesn't count iTunes purchases. You can access your
collection from anywhere with an Internet collection,
but only you can access it, on all your devices, by
signing into your iTunes account.

Apple Music, and where things start


to get complicated
So as of last June, Apple launched the paid music
service called Apple Music. The short version is that
for $10 a month (or $15 per month for a household),
you could stream not just any song in your own library,
but any song in the iTunes Music Library that's 30
million songs, or nearly everything that's available to
buy in the iTunes Store. Like iTunes Match, Apple
Music could put your entire library of songs in the
cloud, and what's more you could download anything
from the iTunes Music Library for local storage and
oine listening as long as you're still a subscriber.

If this sounds like it overlaps some of what iTunes


Match does, you're right it does. Furthermore,
when Apple Music originally launched, some people
were still current or former users of iTunes Match,
and apparently someone at Apple hadn't reckoned on
that possibility. Among other problems with the
initial launch, this fact caused what could
understatedly be described as the worst sort of
disastrous music fubar in the history of Apple, if not
the world. In short, iTunes would get confused about
your local song library, and change tags and
descriptions, and sometimes even outright replace
your music with something else or nothing,
eectively deleting some of it.

If you're reading this, you are probably a big music


fan, and perhaps one of those who has meticulously
organized your collection. Imagine some thief in the
night coming and messing with nearly everything in
your record bins, and that panic attack you're having
now is exactly what happened to early adopters of
Apple Music (particularly, we found, those who had
ever had or were currently using iTunes Match, but in
some cases it even aected those who had no history
with that stu).

you can continue to enjoy as you did before. As for


you iTunes Match users as of this writing it's not
clear what changes. We'll try to clarify that, but maybe
we'll all just have to find out together on January 29,
when the modifications roll out in what will
presumably be a new iTunes and Music version.
Until all this jazz shakes out, we're just going to have to
rock and roll with these ch-ch-ch-changes. As Bowie
would never, ever have stooped so low to have said.

Despite this and we're still finding songs with


switched artwork even all these months later the
actual "giant streaming library like Spotify" part of
Apple Music we actually love. It's hard to forgive
Apple that episode of disrespecting our own local
library's integrity, but Apple Music actually being
pretty terrific makes us sigh, reorganize our own
music, and trust that they've learned their lesson. We
hope. Did we mention that we are really enjoying
Apple Music as a paid service?
Is Apple Music better than Spotify or some of the
other services? Yes and no. It has one of the largest
libraries, the "For You" recommendations and humancurated playlists are fantastic, it's worldwide, and its
integrated into your systems. On the other hand, it
launched like a cow out of a catapult, treated early
adopters' local libraries like ruans beating up
bystanders, and let's face it Sir Jonathan Ive's first
attempt at redesigning Music (for iOS) and iTunes (for
Mac) was a bit of well, a first attempt. Even
forgiving this because it will likely get better, we think
Apple Music is slightly better than the rest, but only
slightly.
This new reorganization means that iTunes Match
users (who aren't also Apple Music subscribers) lose
one of the (admittedly side) benefits, and those who
don't subscribe to anything iTunes-y now get only the
previous list of Internet Radio stations (which, to be
fair, is hundreds) and one Apple-provided one
Beats 1, the flagship station that is free to all iTunes
users. You cheapskates still get tons of free streaming
music, just not quite as many options as before.
Those who subscribe to Apple Music already have all
the music they can possibly consume and then some,
but are gaining some pre-set, and now ad-free, genre
radio stations -- because you need more Disney
Princess Radio in your life, or love to have NPR
wherever you are, or previously made custom stations

Working with iTunes Radio


Earlier we went over the various options available for
listening to music on iTunes that is not part of your
local library of stored songs. There are several
options, but it's Apple Music the subscription
service that gets all the press. Previously it was
iTunes Radio back in 2013, but it will soon be
(partially) folded into Apple Music, so what was
once free but annoyingly ad-supported (stupid artists,
wanting to be paid!) will become ad-free but part of
the paid Apple Music service. Today, Pointers will help
you cope with the loss by re-acquainting you with the
thousands of free Internet stations inside iTunes.
Unlike iTunes Radio, which was a US (and later
Australia) only set of pre-programmed stations with
the ability to let users create their own custom selfprogramming playlists based on a song, artist, or
genre, the Internet Radio section of iTunes is
worldwide, and has been there since almost the
beginning. Originally, it was a completely
unmodifiable section of iTunes that listed a bunch of
freely-available Internet radio stations (many of which
were the portals of actual broadcasting radio stations,
others were Internet-only stations) and played them
usually. Most of the time.

Back in those days, not only did you take the listings
Apple gave you and liked it, many of them didn't work
reliably, or only sporadically. Of course, back then
Internet speeds were so variable and low compared to
what we are used to now that the listing for the
bitrate of the station was an important consideration
could your connection handle stereo? How about
stereo that didn't sound like it was coming from the
speakers in a pickup truck? What the heck is 64kbit
anyway?
Let's be frank this feature has been in iTunes for
ages (at least a decade!) and you're not using it much if
at all. We hope to change that a bit here, but Apple
hasn't really changed this feature much at all over that
time, and it's still very primitive compared to the rest
of what iTunes does. Still, there is a world of free
streaming music, divided up by genre, and running the
gamut of tastes and styles in there it's worth a look.
In iTunes 12, though, there's a bit of a challenge:
where is it?

Internet Radio in iTunes 12


The answer is "hiding." While it's nice of Apple to
continue to offer this completely free service, naturally
they want to push their own product first either the
previous iTunes Radio or the new Apple Music.
However, Internet Radio is still there it's available
under the ellipsis-looking "more" icon menu near the
top left of iTunes 12, to the right of the Music, Movies,
and TV Shows icons. There you will find quite a few
other options Podcasts, Ringtones (oh that's where
that went!), Audiobooks, and possibly more.

At the bottom of this list is an "edit" button, which lets


you promote those categories to the main icon gallery.
For now, add "Internet Radio," and it will become the
icon of a tiny radio tower. Now click on that icon, and
congratulate yourself you found the hidden level!
Look at all those genres, from Adult Contemporary to
90's Hits and everything in-between. There's a little
"disclosure triangle" (yes that's the ocial name) next
to each genre click on that, and it may take a
moment for iTunes to refresh the list of available
streams, but when it does, it will number in the
hundreds. For each of those genres.

Just Press Play


Now this is the easy part pick a station from the
list, and double-click it to start it playing. After a
second or two (sometimes a bit longer), you'll start
hearing music, or an advertisement or "pre-roll"
announcement of some kind ("please consider
supporting National Public Radio"). These stations
are often real radio stations, and thus they will have
commercials sometimes, as will some of the Internetonly stations (which have bills to pay too, you know),
but mostly you'll get music, and lots of it.
Sometimes as have ever been thus a station
won't play for whatever reason. Usually this means the
station has changed the web address it's located at,
and the editors at Apple haven't updated it yet
(they're ... not quick ... on this point). After a short bit,
iTunes will just skip down to the next station and try
again until it hits one that works (and that's generally
90 percent of the stations listed).
Anyway, give it a try and hop around in dierent
genres, try something new, definitely check out the
International/World section (we're also quite partial
to the College/University stations for the sheer
variety). Of course, once you find a station that's
playing stu you love, you can just hide iTunes or
minimize the player and get on with the rest of your
computer stu audio doesn't use up much
bandwidth, so unless your connection is terribly poor
you will be able to surf, email, and laugh at cat
pictures as you normally do, only now with lovely
music playing on your speakers. You can pause iTunes
from the Dock, or by unhiding the program and
pressing pause if you should need to.

Sadly, Apple has never built in any kind of editing or


arranging capability in this section of iTunes, so once
you find a few favorites you have to just return to the
list and find those stations again oh wait, no you
don't. You can make a playlist of radio stations,
including streaming stations you find on the web and
add to iTunes. That's an easy way to save just the best
stations you really like, and access them quickly.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
So you can add your own stations the ones you find
on the web to the Internet Radio list? Well, kind
of. You can add the stations to iTunes, so you can still
make playlists of them, locate them, and play them
whenever you like without having to load up the web
page each time, but for the most part, stations have
moved on from the file types that iTunes' Internet
Radio recognizes, so your own finds will instead be
filed in your music library, which is rather more messy
(but it works).
It's a shame, too, though this did have one drawback
college stations we found on line would
automatically get added into "College/University"
most of the time, though sometimes it would get filed
under "Alternative Rock." Of course, being extremely
basic, the Internet Radio section of iTune had no way
at all for you to search listings except visually so if a
station got "misfiled," not only would be next-toimpossible to find, it could not be moved from the
"wrong" category to the "right" one.
So now, some stations we add (by going to the File
menu and choosing "Open Stream," then pasting in
the specific URL of the stream more on that in a
moment) stay in the music library, but guess what

they're searchable (under "Unknown Album" or by


name), playlist-able, and generally easy to summon up
again, even if they do stick out weirdly in the main
Music library.
This isn't Apple's fault, per se fewer stations
want you to listen directly through iTunes like they
did 10 years ago, so they don't conform to the
standard ".pls" streaming MP3 file format as they
used to. Still, Apple could (if it cared about this)
make iTunes more discerning about picking out a
stream on a web page, so that it would be easier for
us to add them.
So, how to add radio stations in iTunes nowadays? If
you find the web page for a station, they may still
have a "listen live" or even possibly a "listen on
iTunes" button somewhere on the home page. The
latter will just add the station to iTunes' Internet
Radio directly, because it is a link to an MP3-based
stream that is in the form of a ".pls" file. Take a look
at the "Listen Live" web page for WXPN in
Philadelphia there's an iTunes link right at the
bottom of the page, and clicking it just opens iTunes
and XPN is added to the Internet Radio. Most
stations now route their stream through a service
such as TuneIn Radio, and there's nothing wrong
with that, but it's not helpful if you don't want to
keep a browser open to listen (or use an app, though
admittedly that's the way to go on iOS devices).
I discovered an all-Bowie station just yesterday, but to
add it to iTunes or a third-party radio app like
Radium, I had to go digging around in the web page's
source code to suss out the stream's actual web
address. Once I did that, adding it to iTunes and
elsewhere was easy but you have to know what
you're looking for, and that's too complicated to get
into here.

Getting your Internet Radio


some other way
Before we talk about programs that make it much
easier to add Internet radio streams, one last thing
about iTunes for all its faults when it comes to its
Internet Radio section, there are literally thousands of
stations in there you may not be able to easily find
elsewhere, including (depending on where you are) a lot
of local stations already in the list and ready to go (nice
touch, iTunes Overlords). There's a lifetime's worth of
music in there, for free it mainly falls down when
you want to add your own discoveries instead of
working off the pre-set list, though you can actually add
stations if the streaming URL isn't too obscured.
However, these days those streaming URLs are mostly
very buried and hard to find. On top of that, adding a
station to iTunes' Internet Radio or the general music
library isn't going to help you if you want to listen on
your mobile device much.
The iOS app Music doesn't have any facility built into
it for Internet radio, and "radio" playlists from the
Mac version of iTunes can't be synced to your iPhone
or iPad using iTunes or iCloud. If you're really into
finding your own stations and building a "playlist" of
favorite stations, the best solution is to get a thirdparty "radio" app for iOS and OS X.
One of our favorites is Radium, in part because it is
available for both platforms, and syncs your stations
on the Mac to your iOS device and vice-versa. It
features an excellent search engine for finding new
stations (and divines the stream URL by itself), and
can also handle things like SiriusXM subscriptions or
others, like Live365 or Digitally Imported. Not Apple
Music, ironically (yet?).

It costs $10 for the Mac version at the moment,


and the iOS version is free. There are plenty of other
candidates, including TuneIn (a web site for Mac, and
an iOS app) and several others, mostly available from
the Mac App Store (and iOS App Store).
These third-party apps all work the same, basically:
type in a genre or station name, select the one you
want, and it's added -- and playable. One note of
caution though: remember, this is streaming music. If
you're listening on a mobile device like a smartphone,

you are probably using cellular data to do so and


prolonged listening can really put a dent in your data
plan if you don't have a large supply. Some of these
radio apps have a preference that you can hit to avoid
playing while on cellular use just the Wi-Fi data.
While Apple could (but won't, trust us on this)
improve the way it handles Internet radio, it does at
least oer a service with a large selection that is semiaddable if the station uses a format for streaming that
iTunes understands. The third-party apps oer yet
more options, and their strength is on discovery and
adding of stations you choose to add.
While we would not even begin to say that these
options rival the "30 million song jukebox" oerings
found in subscription services like Apple Music and
Spotify, if you enjoy listening to radio-style stations
near and far, charmingly amateur or the finest in the
world, and the huge variety of music they cover
iTunes on the Mac has an option that shouldn't be
overlooked.
Charles Martin