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Replace the departed free iTunes Radio with free iTunes radio

In case you missed the news, Apple has now officially ended the free streaming of iTunes Radio. To listen to these stations now, you have to subscribe to Apple Music, which isn’t something I want to use. (If they offered a “use but don’t integrate into library,” I’d subscribe in a heartbeat…but they don’t.)

There are any number of other radio services out there – Pandora, Spotify, etc. But I wanted something that existed in iTunes, as I didn’t want to have to run another app, nor (shudder) use my browser as a radio station front end. Then I remembered that iTunes has a huge—as in tens of thousands—assortment of Internet Radio stations.

I hadn’t looked at internet radio in a long time, as I’d been quite happy with my selection of iTunes Radio stations. But Apple’s move inspired me to take another look, and so far, I like what I’ve found. If you’d like to explore the world of Internet Radio in iTunes, here are a few tips to ease the exploration.

  • Make sure Internet Radio is enabled—open iTunes Preferences, go to Restrictions, and make sure that Internet Radio is not checked in the Disable section.
  • To view the station list, you’ll probably have to click the three dots in the iTunes icon bar and choose Internet Radio from the pop-up menu.
  • To make it simpler to access Internet Radio, select Edit from the three dots’ pop-up menu, and then check Internet Radio:

    From now on, Internet Radio will appear in the iTunes icon bar, alongside Music and Movies, etc.

  • You can add any station to a playlist by dragging it to the left edge of the iTunes window; when you do this, the iTunes sidebar will slide out, and you can drop the station on an existing playlist, or into a clear area to create a new playlist. (Can I just mention how much I hate hidden UI like this? It’s horrid!)

    You can then access these playlists while viewing your Music, where the sidebar can be set to be permanently visible.

  • The audio quality of a station’s stream depends on its bit rate, but by default, that information isn’t displayed. To remedy that, right-click on the header bar (where it says Stream and Comments), and select Bit Rate from the pop-up menu. Once visible, click on that column, and you can sort by bit rate to find the highest-quality streams:

    I find anything down to 128kbps sounds OK on my desktop speakers; below that, things take on a decidedly “AM radio” quality.

I’ve only been playing with Internet Radio for about a day, but I’ve already found a number of stations that are working well to replace those I used in iTunes Radio…and that play more music with less idiotic blathering than Beats 1.

17 Comments

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    1. Sorry, it’s a Mac-only thing—iOS users don’t have access to internet radio in the Music app. Some stations have their own apps, of course, but that’s not nearly as nice as having it integrated into the Music app. If I were primarily an iOS user, I’d probably have to subscribe to Apple Music … but I’m not :).

      -rob.

  1. Good, clearly explained tips-thanks! Hidden UI: Elegant? Intuitive? My ass–it’s simply obfuscation from a bloated change-for-change’s sake department at Apple. I’ve been using Macs since 1990 and I didn’t know how to do this. I stumbled upon the hidden UI in Mail, too.

  2. It’s basically an endless list of Shoutcast/Live365 stations. A lot of them are really awesome stations too.

  3. “If Apple “offered a “use but don’t integrate into library,” I’d subscribe in a heartbeat…but they don’t.)”

    Actually they do. You just have to turn off iCloud Music Library in prefs. That’s how I use Apple Music- it doesn’t touch my library.

    1. Keen to see what Rob has to say about Apple Music subscriptions now that you’ve explained you can keep things separate.

      1. That still doesn’t quite get what I want: I want a library called Apple Music (or whatever) in the iTunes sidebar. In there, I could add any albums or songs or artists or whatever from Apple Music, as one can with iCloud Music Library enabled. But if you disable iCloud Music Library, you can’t add anything — because Apple Music is only capable of adding to your actual library, and only then when iCloud Music Library is enabled. With it disabled, all I can do is stream, listen to For You, and now, listen to radio stations.

        In short, I want to use Apple Music like another music library: add any artists and albums of interest, make playlists that merge songs from both my regular and Apple Music libraries, etc. I’d like to be able to browse, not stream, my collection of saved Apple Music. But I don’t want that rented collection of Apple Music intermingling with my owned and somewhat carefully tagged music collection.

        Does that make sense?

        -rob.

        1. That does make sense. But it would add more complexity than Apple typically accepts. For me, the full streaming and curated playlists & radio stations make it worthwhile, although I’m leaving a lot of functionality on the table. I can’t let Apple mess up my metadata, so iCloud library is a non-starter.

  4. Hey Rob – In the latest version of iTunes it returns an error message when you try to drag an internet radio station from the list to the playlist. It says you can only drag items from your own music library to a playlist.

    Am I missing something? Any ideas? I have been able to play any internet radio stations that are NOT in the iTunes list but can’t find any way to save them or access them easily. Is there a work around that you have found?

      1. Not sure what to say—it works fine here using the same version of iTunes. Try dragging the first station to an empty area of the sidebar to make a new playlist?

        -rob.

  5. Thanks Rob – I persisted and found it does work ONLY if I drag the station from the internet radio list to the left edge of the iTunes window to activate the playlist sidebar and then drag it to the top of the playlists to the greyed out word “Playlists.” it then creates a new playlist with the name of the internet radio station name. I couldn’t find any other blank area of the sidebar that worked.

    It would be great if Apple allowed some sort of editing of the internet radio stations to make a favorites folder, or allowed you to move frequently used stations to the top of the list. It feels like they want it to be marginally available and inconvenient. I have made this suggestion in the iTunes Feedback. We’ll see if there is any response. When they are actively marketing paid Apple Music it’s hard to imagine them putting any effort into facilitating a work around.

    Appreciate your help and quick response.

  6. I have (created) a folder in my playlists sidebar called Radio Stations. Inside that folder I have 3 playlists (Blues, Jazz, World). The stations in those playlists can be easily dragged up and down to any order I choose.

  7. My iTunes Internet Radio listing is completely empty – no stations listed at all.
    It is not disabled in Preferences. Can anyone suggest what I might be doing wrong?

      1. Nope, I’m in the good old US of A. But I was on a college campus, so now I suspect that they were somehow limiting my internet traffic. Once off campus, the list populated, and now I’m still able to use the list even when on campus.

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