iTunes Radio was Apple's first foray into streaming music, but a pretty major change to the service is afoot -- today, the company has started sending emails to customers saying that iTunes Radio will no longer be a free, ad-supported service for iTunes users. At the end of January, you'll only be able to access the service if you're a paying Apple Music subscriber, and Beats 1 will be the only free music option for iTunes users.
Apple confirmed the change with the following statement given to Buzzfeed:
"We are making Beats 1 the premier free broadcast from Apple and phasing out the ad-supported stations at the end of January. Additionally, with an Apple Music membership, listeners can access dozens of radio stations curated by our team of music experts, covering a range of genres, commercial-free with unlimited skips. The free three-month trial of Apple Music includes radio."
For those that may not recall, iTunes Radio is an ad-supported streaming service that's similar to Pandora. You can start a station based on an artist, song or genre and Apple uses its algorithms to serve up similar related music. But you can't fast forward or rewind and can only skip six songs per hours. There are also ads that interrupt playback, unless you were a subscriber to the iTunes Match music locker service.
The iTunes Radio features were rolled into Apple Music when it launched at the end of June last year, and you could still access the ad-supported stations if you weren't a paying Apple Music user. But now, you'll either need to shell out for Apple Music or start your free trial membership. It's not a terribly surprising move for Apple -- the company didn't launch Apple Music with a free tier like Spotify has, and that's helped the company maintain some exclusive content like Taylor Swift's catalog. Ending the ad-supported iTunes Radio service further reinforces that commitment to getting its users to pay cold hard cash for music.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg]