Apple recently made the announcement that they are killing off iTunes. Oh no! What will happen to all my downloaded music? What about the songs I copied from CDs onto iTunes? My playlists!!!
Firstly, we should look at the history of iTunes. Many people think that the iPod changed the way we listened to music forever. Well, that is only partly true. The iPod is just a nicely packaged MP3 player. The first iPod was released on 23 October 2001. It had a mechanical scroll wheel and a massive 5GB of storage. Three years previous to the iPod launch was the first MP3. The MPMan F10 launched in March 1998 and contained 32MB of storage.
The secret to the success of the iPod was not the device. It was iTunes. On 9 January 2001, Apple launched iTunes. It was an Apple makeover of a program called SoundJam that Apple purchased in 1999. The coup de grâce for iTunes occurred on 28 April 2003. Apple launched the iTunes Music Store. To quote the original media release, it was “a revolutionary online music store that lets customers quickly find, purchase and download the music they want for just 99 cents per song, without subscription fees.” We will come back to that comment about subscription fees. When it opened, the iTunes Music Store was the only legal digital catalogue of music to offer songs from all five major record labels. Apple boasted at the time that an incredible 200,000 songs were available in the store – which was significant then but is laughable when you consider that there are now over 30 million songs available.
To say it was an instant success is like saying that Roger Federer hits a tennis ball OK. Within 15 months, 100 million songs had been sold. The first billion songs took less than 3 years from launch date and ten years after launch, 25 billion songs had been sold. What a fantastic platform for Apple and a huge part of their financial success.
Surprisingly for Apple though, they missed a market trend. As mobile reception improved across the world, the concept of streaming music rather than buying individual songs started to gain momentum. Why buy one song – even when it is only 99 cents – when you can pay a small monthly fee and have access to listen to any of the 30 million songs available on a platform.
Spotify is the best known of the challengers. It launched on 7 October 2008 – possibly before its time – but as reception has improved and data plans have delivered more data, Spotify has grown to now be at 207 million users worldwide. Apple was late to the party and their streaming service only has 50 million users. Apple originally boasted that you could buy their songs without subscription fees but as it turns out, this is actually what we want.
With all the past success of iTunes, what prompted the decision by Apple to kill off a money-spinner for them?
The market has changed. iTunes hasn’t. It is still the same basic program it was in 2001 but now has apps and TVs and movies and includes the kitchen sink. One program trying to do everything. Instead, they will shut down iTunes and repackage three different dedicated apps. Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. Apple Music will focus on Apple’s streaming service to try and catch up with Spotify but they will still allow you to keep all of your old purchased songs – phew!
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