updated 06:30 pm EDT, Tue May 6, 2014
New 'Turn Blue' to be released May 13; two songs available now
As part of an ongoing effort to differentiate itself from other streaming services, iTunes Radio has lately been on a tear of offering pre-release albums streamed on the ad-supported service. The latest entry is the new album Turn Blue by The Black Keys, now available to listen to in its entirety through a dedicated "First Play" channel. Also currently available under the "First Play" moniker are new albums by Michael W. Smith and Chromeo.
The free iTunes Radio service, currently available only in the US and Australia (or worldwide for those with a US iTunes account), has already leaped ahead of most of its competition to become the third most-popular streaming radio service on the Internet, far behind Pandora but very close to eclipsing its next nearest rival, ClearChannel's IHeartRadio now in second place. Fourth-place Spotify and first-place Pandora don't offer specials such as early-access releases presently.
Turn Blue, the eighth studio album but The Black Keys, is available for pre-order on iTunes at a cost of $10.99 (about $1 per song average). Two songs (the title track and another one called "Fever") are available for purchase now, at $1.29 apiece; buyers who get them individually now can opt to pay the balance when the album is officially released on May 13; users who pre-order the album can download the two tracks free of charge.