Internet radio is not a fun business to be in right now. Unless you’re Apple, in which case you’re stomping through the sector like a kaiju taking a walking tour of a major city. It’s already racked up eleven million unique users, a pace that would make it more popular than Pandora sometime next month. If it can keep up the pace.
The main problem, for everybody, is that the market is a lot smaller than you might at first think. So the question becomes who’s going to grab the many listeners who haven’t tuned in yet:
In the U.S., Pandora reaches only about 7 percent of the total radio-listening audience. That leaves a huge portion of the population up for grabs. Meanwhile, the strongest number on iTunes Radio’s side is 500 million — that’s how many people use iTunes worldwide at Apple’s last disclosure. Because of the complexities of music licensing across borders, no single player has emerged as a preferred Internet music brand internationally.
In other words, Apple is at a distinct advantage, here, being a trusted brand with a lot of users. So there’s going to be a lot of fighting for those users. But don’t worry, terrestrial radio is going to be dragged into the fun as well.
How? Well, Apple isn’t saying quite yet, but the fact that Nissan is currently talking up its exclusive partnership with Apple, while trying to downplay the fact that iAd is going to be a big part of that partnership, is a hint that something’s coming.
Of course, streaming internet radio in a car is nothing new, but it’s a bit tricky to say the least. Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear Apple has found a new part of the music industry to terrify; we look forward to radio stations blaming piracy for all their problems.