updated 09:49 pm EDT, Mon August 5, 2013
Suggests that third-party radio stations will be folded into iTunes Radio
Apple is asking owners of Internet radio stations, such as those featured in the existing Radio gallery of iTunes, to submit "cover art" for their station -- following in the footsteps of an earlier art request for podcasts, and suggesting that third-party stations may be joining iTunes Radio and leaving the desktop iTunes application at some point. The artwork requirements call for a 1400x1400 JPEG or PNG file, which will be added to a station's iTunes Radio page. The current beta of iTunes Radio doesn't yet support third-party internet streams.
Internet radio stations have been available on iTunes for a long time, but have never previously been accompanied by artwork -- just a text-listing of the various options available for different genres. The stations available in iTunes are often listed multiple times due to various bit rates offered, with higher bit rates equalling higher fidelity, less of a concern today than it was a decade ago when iTunes first began offering the service.
"Cover art should avoid pixellation," the email reads in part. "Any text should be legible at reduced image sizes on small devices. Note that Internet Radio cover art is not currently displayed," hinting that a future version of iTunes or the separate iTunes Radio app will utilize the cover art for each station. The note comes from the "iTunes Internet Radio Team" and points station owners with questions to the iTunes Radio page.
The iTunes Radio service is expected to arrive in the fall alongside iOS 7. It will mark a revamp in the delivery of customized streaming music for the company, automatically generating playlists based on songs, genres and artists already owned by the user, interspersed with ads probably aimed at suggesting additional artists or related products and services based on the users' tastes. Users who have the $25-per-year iTunes Match service, which creates a "cloud locker" of songs available for streaming to a user's iOS devices, will receive iTunes Radio without ads.
Adding third-party radio stations to iTunes Radio would likely be seen as a smart consolidation of streaming-based audio services under the new program. The iTunes Radio app will be available for Macs, PCs, Apple TV and iOS devices.