updated 09:32 pm EDT, Fri October 4, 2013
America's northern neighbor likely to be first outside country to gain the service
Apple has posted job notices seeking iTunes Radio programmers for Canada, a sign that the well-received free music-streaming service will be expanding into the US' closest ally as one of, if not the, first countries outside America to gain the service. The posting suggests that the launch of the service in Canada may occur as early as sometime later this month, presuming some strong candidates can be found.
While iTunes has traditionally offered streaming radio channels through iTunes for many years (and continues to do so under a new "Internet" banner), the new iTunes Radio operates in a different manner -- using listeners' own music library and preferences to custom-program songs. The service offers a mix of curated pre-programmed stations (such as 90s hits or celebrity "dj" mixes) and user-created "stations" comprising a user-set mix of well-known songs based on an artist, album or genre as well as "discovery" of related songs by similar artists. The latter feature is hoped by Apple to draw sales of new songs to users who previously may have had difficulty finding additional artists like the ones they already prefer.
The Radio feature draws from iTunes' enormous catalog of music -- offering far greater selection than similar rival Pandora, which pioneered the concept of user-tailored "stations" but relies on its own Music Genome Project and its algorithms to pick out additional artists to put before listeners. Pandora has been tied up in royalty disputes with various record labels, and its stock has plunged in light of Apple's arrival into its core market, and beats it on price.
Pandora (and other various streaming-music competitors) generally charge a monthly subscription fee to provide benefits such as greater choice, offline listening, unlimited skipping of songs or most importantly ad-free unlimited listening. While iTunes Radio is similarly ad-supported at the free level, users of the company's $25-per-year iTunes Match service (which provides them with a large, cloud-based backup of their music available on all their devices) get iTunes Radio ad-free -- a significant savings over alternatives such as Spotify, Rdio and others.
The ad for the Canadian programmers seeks candidates to "execute the programming of iTunes Radio in Canada, merchandising new releases and other feature content across multiple radio stations" among other duties. The description says the Canadian Music Programmer "will be responsible for the programming of iTunes Radio and the iTunes Music store in Canada," and will be "an editorial voice of iTunes Radio, and will be responsible for keeping the product current. This person must have a passion for and deep knowledge of music across numerous genres and decades, and must demonstrate the ability to objectively program content relevant to iTunes customers."
"This will include deciding what music to feature on all iTunes Radio stations, entering music into the content management system, and creating seasonal and relevant editorial collections. It will require this person to decipher the most relevant mix of songs in particular genres. This position will be measured according to his/her ability to maintain and expand the credible editorial voice of iTunes in Canada via iTunes Radio, and present music offerings that generate incremental sales. This will be in collaboration with teams responsible for music worldwide, and with local programming, sales and marketing for iTunes in Canada."
Candidates are asked to have a minimum of five years of general radio or music related field experience, a record of working with digital media production teams, excellent interpersonal and verbal/written communication skills, a passion for and technical knowledge of Apple products, particularly iOS, OS X and iTunes, and notes that French language skills and a knowledge of the Quebec arts media industry is "a definite asset." The position works out of Toronto at iTunes Canada headquarters.
In addition to Canada, Apple is likely focusing on the UK as another prime target in the first wave of iTunes Radio expansions. Great Britain is home to one of the largest music markets outside North America, as well as host to the annual iTunes Festival held in London during the whole of September.
Apple must negotiate licenses with music regulators and labels on a country-by-country basis, but will likely try to bring the service to the Asia-Pacific region, South America and the European Union countries as quickly as possible. US citizens with American iTunes accounts can listen to the service regardless of their location, as testing in other countries has revealed.