When Apple launched the iTunes store in 2003, the music industry was not in a good state. Rampant online piracy sent CD sales plummeting and caused many to wonder whether record companies could compete against the freedom of the Internet. Fortunately for the industry, the iTunes strategy of selling individual songs for just 99 cents made buying digital music mainstream and limited the reach of piracy. The app also drove sales of the iPod, which was Apple’s signature product at the time. So along with providing a lifeline to struggling record companies, iTunes helped revitalize Apple and laid the groundwork for future products like the iPhone.
But the American public’s listening habits have changed significantly in the 15 years since the launch of iTunes. Instead of downloading songs and uploading them to iPods, many people use their smartphones to access streaming platforms like Apple Music or Spotify. In fact, streaming services like these currently account for 80 percent of the recording industry’s revenue. In the first half of 2019, subscriptions to Apple Music rose 30 percent to $2.8 billion. Meanwhile, revenue from digital downloads dropped 18 percent to $462 million.
With so many consumers now relying on music subscriptions, Apple recently announced that its latest Mac computer update will remove iTunes for anyone already subscribed to Apple Music. Although the service will remain in operation, users will have to enable access to the iTunes store in the new Music app in order to see it. Those who aren’t subscribed to Apple Music will see iTunes in a small tab but will encounter far more messages about how they can join the $10 per month service. In addition, users will still be able to listen to any songs purchased through iTunes on the Music app. Besides encouraging users to join Apple Music, the company will also place more emphasis on its upcoming video streaming platform Apple TV Plus. “The move away from iTunes really does perfectly mirror the general industry move away from sales” and toward subscriptions, said mobile app expert Randy Nelson.
- How have the American public’s music listening habits changed since the launch of iTunes in the early 2000s?
- Do you think it makes sense for Apple to remove iTunes in its latest computer update? Why or why not?
Source: Rachel Lerman and Anick Jesdanun, “Goodbye, iTunes: Once-Revolutionary App Gone in Mac Update,” Associated Press, October 7, 2019.