Apple music may have gangbuster year

All signs point to 2013 as a gangbuster year for Apple music.

Apple iTunes visits increased almost 200 percent on Christmas Day 2012 compared to the year before, according to Experian, which tracks consumer activity. As CDs inch towards obsolescence in the digital music age, iTunes continues to lead the pack in music downloads and giftcards. It doesn’t seem to matter much that Amazon and Google have launched near identical services; iTunes still dominates the digital music landscape it helped to define.

The latest iTunes upgrade, which improved the speed and functionality of Apple’s media library, can take some of the credit for the uptick in users this holiday. Analysts have praised iTunes 11 for improving the integration between your PC’s  media library and Apple’s online iCloud service. The upgrade ensures purchases in iCloud appear in your iTunes library, and with iTunes Match,  songs purchased from media sites other than Apple will appear in your library. And the upgrade fixes some annoying bugs, including restoring the feature that detects duplicate songs in your library.

The upgrade, considered the biggest iTunes overhaul since 2003, also adds a “Radio” option to the horizontal bar, foreshadowing the much-anticipated release of Apple’s music streaming service, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2013.

Rumors have abounded since Apple filed for a patent last year on streaming music, and a story published by Bloomberg in October breathed new life into the discussion of a Pandora competitor. But in true Apple style, the company has remained tight-lipped.  Some analysts say the iTunes 11 radio feature — while currently one of the less appealing features — is a placeholder for a full-blown streaming service that Apple will release in the next few weeks or months.

CNET reported that research firm BTIG has said that Apple’s soon-to-be music streaming service, which is being called “iRadio,” will trump Pandora.  If so-called “iRadio” is a subscription service, such as Rhapsody, Apple could find itself another gold mine in the digital music business.

Between the continued prominence of iTunes, kept relevant in an increasingly crowded market with upgrades like 11.0.1, and the approaching release of iRadio, this could be a very happy new year indeed in Apple’s world of digital music.

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (205 Posts)

Heather Somerville is a business reporter covering venture capital and startups for the Bay Area News Group.