The music world has come a long way since April of 2003 when Apple’s iTunes Store officially opened. Seen as an opportunity in the new digital age, where music was mainly downloaded illegally or through Napster, the store became the largest music vendor not only in America but the world in 2010. Now reports are suggesting we might have to say sayonara to the industry titan at the beginning of 2019, unfortunately.
Originally reported by Digital Music News in an article on December 6th, Apple is scheduling to phase-out all music downloads from the iTunes Store right after next year’s Christmas season – and sales – as a way of pushing consumers interest into Apple Music. The company’s streaming service, which was formed in 2015, would give users a three month trial with the option of migrating their vast collections of iTunes downloads. Sources working at Apple and/or tied to the company have been leaking rumors of such a transition for almost as long as Apple Music has been around, but only now have the rumors seemed less trivial, with the supposed timeframe of getting rid of the downloads within two years moving up slightly.
What We Do Know
- Apple has repeatedly denied any such plans to multiple news sources, including Digital Music News and NME.
- According to Nielsen Music track downloads have dropped 24.1% in the US this year, while sales of digital albums decreased by 19.9%, with a decline of 30% in both formats expected next year.*
- Also according to Nielsen, 14% of all physical album sales in the US are represented by vinyl. While physical media, in general, is still on a decrease (physical album sales were down 18.3% in Q3 this year), vinyl sales have been steadily rising – a whopping 3.1% in the past year. It mightn’t seem like much but in 2016 sales grew 29.5% in the US, and in the UK sales reached 3.2 million units – a rise of 53% and a volume last seen in 1991.**
- Estimated retail revenues from recorded music in the United States grew 17% in the first half of 2017 to $4.0 billion. At wholesale value, the industry was up 14.6% to $2.7 billion.***
- Streaming as a whole is ever growing, with 60 million Spotify subscribers worldwide and 30 million Apple Music subscribers, it now accounts for 62% of the U.S. music business.
It would only make sense for Apple to go the dispose-of-iTunes-downloads route, as Jimmy Iovine, Apple’s CEO has recently been putting more focus on Apple Music, even taking digs at other streaming services such as Spotify in the process: “The streaming business is not a great business. It’s fine with the big companies: Amazon, Apple, Google… Of course, it’s a small piece of their business, very cool, but Spotify is the only standalone, right? So they have to figure out a way to show the road to making this a real business.” Iovine and many in the music industry are beginning to see downloads as a way of the past, and what better way to encourage listeners/buyers to become subscribers of Apple Music than to force their hand? That being said, again, Apple has denied any and all plans to phase-out music downloads from iTunes. Apple also this past week bought music discovery app Shazam for $400 million, marking a growing interest in streaming services. Make what you will of the numbers above and maybe start to ponder your music libraries’ future. I know I’m going to.
*Source: Nielsen Music via NME
**Source: Nielsen Music
***Source: Recording Industry Association of America