Happy birthday, iTunes!


Video killed the radio star? No, you can thank iTunes for that. A recent CNNMoney article (link below) outlines exactly how since their start, iTunes, although increasing the number of music sale transactions, has exponentially decreased the profits from sales in the music industry. Apple’s iTunes music Store debuted on April 28, 2003, introducing things like the 99 cent single. Before the wild fire that is iTunes, the music industry was able to make profit off of the sales of full records, which were sold for $10+ each. the introduction of the single made it impossible for artists and labels to make the same money they were making on full albums. Who is to say that just because someone likes one song on an album they are going to buy more? In fact, the single made it so more and more people were just buying one or two songs off of a record, as opposed to purchasing a whole album. THIS is what was decreasing the sales. People are paying only spending half of the money (at most) if they REALLY like an album.


Since the start of the single being sold, album sales have drastically decreased. The amount of singles sold by iTunes alone made up 63% of music sales last year. If iTunes, alone, can be responsible for so many sales, one has to wonder who is making up the rest of the sales? The answer is companies like Amazon and Rhapsody. Big powerhouses like Amazon are trying to get involved with everything on the internet, so clearly music sales would be a target. Although they may not seem to be posing a threat to iTunes right now, it is only a matter of time before Apple has trouble keeping up with the newcomers in the industry, such as Amazon. Even though they technically are responsible for the sale of singles and its business model, industries  are known for changing drastically, especially ones involving media. The reason that they were able to start up and hit the ground running in such a successful way with iTunes is that they had the iPod to go with it. Even if other companies were able to come up with the software to sell singles, they would still have to come up with some sort of device to play all of those singles on. The iPod was really the key to all of this.


This transition into the sale of singles hit the music industry pretty hard. Since its start in 2003, not only has the music changed, but also the industry. Now, record labels are trying to get whatever they can out of the artists, and artists are so desperate to get their music on iTunes, that they are willing to sign a contract giving them very little compensation for their work. However, it has allowed for the introduction of many other artists into the music world, regardless of how big their fan base is. Almost anyone can get their music on iTunes now, making the game of the industry much more fair.

Although the single may have dropped the profit of big name labels and artists will have to depend on the money from touring and endorsements now, it has also done a lot for the music itself.New artists have been introduced and more music is circulating than ever before. It is safe to say that if the single was introduced 30 years ago as opposed to 10 years ago, it would definitely be just as popular and commonly used.

Link to article: http://money.cnn.com/2013/04/25/technology/itunes-music-decline/index.html

Follow me, @shawnmcniff , on Twitter for more tech updates!


16 thoughts on “Happy birthday, iTunes!

  1. Great Post! iTunes was definitely a big game changer, but I actually thought that artists would make more money off of iTunes. I guess my reasoning was because if I only liked one song on an album I wouldn’t buy the album at all whereas iTunes allows me at least purchase something from the artist. iTunes also evened the playing field which is a great benefit for aspiring artists. A lot of people on youtube now put their music and covers on iTunes which helps that raise enough money to produce their own album. I actually don’t even purchase music anymore and only use Spotify. I think that Spotify will be another disruptive technology because it allows users to listen to music for free with a few ads in the between. If a lot of people switch to Spotify it would mean that even artists will make even less money from songs.

  2. This is a very nice post in celebration of iTunes’ 10th birthday. iTunes, in conjunction with the iPod, transformed the music industry. Personally as a listener and not as an artist, I think this transformation is for the better. I’m sure artists disagree. I think it will be very interesting to see how iTunes evolves as the music industry continues to change. Now that smartphones are so popular, iPods seem to be losing some of their steam. Obviously, anyone who opts for an Android phone will be unable to use the iTunes store for their single track music purchasing. Additionally, with monthly subscription fee music providers like Spotify, it is even conceivable that the iTunes’ single track model will become obsolete.

    I really like how you chronicled iTunes’ development and the financial repercussions that make up the other side of the double-edged sword. This post is very well enhanced with pictures and helps to celebrate a major turning point that all our generation witnessed.

  3. I follow Panic at the Disco’s Brendon Urie on Twitter and he tweeted about his band’s 10th anniversary on itunes so this article immediately caught my attention! Your use of graphics is great and I found the content very interesting. Itunes has definitely changed the music industry and the way consumers buy music. I remember going to the CD store and sampling CD’s at the stations they had set up with headphones. That was the age of the walk-man. Itunes changed the game and the music industry is now run very differently; it had to adapt and change with technology. Personally, I miss the novelty of the CD store but I like where the music industry has gone.

  4. I really liked your post because I think you outlined the double edged sword of this issue. No one really thinks about the negative side of buying just one song from an album but it has something that has drastically changed during our lifetime. I think we can all remember going to a store and looking at CDs that you paid so much money for just for the few songs you wanted. Although this has only gotten better for us it has caused the record companies a lot of pain. This is expected and not very surprising but what I really didn’t think about were the number of artists that are able to put themselves on itunes or get discovered. It is allowing the industry to be a lot more accessible. Its really interesting to think about the expansion in one regard and the retraction in another aspect. This is a cool post and I really liked the graph you used.

  5. I thought your post was really interesting and in we discussed the effects iTunes and the digital copy had on the music industry in my Audio class last semester. When I was younger, I used to convince my parents to buy me an album just because I really liked one song on it. Essentially, I paid $10 for one song. Now, you don’t see that. However, I think the good outweighs the bad in this situation. With iTunes comes an extremely low barrier to entry, and all sorts of musical groups are able to get their music out to the world and have people listen to their songs. The major problem that iTunes created was that digital copies were way easier to rip off and illegally distribute and download, so now people may not only be being singles but might not be buying their music at all.

  6. Great Post! I like how you showed how I-Tunes is a double edged sword in the sense that is great for the consumer and for Apple itself but harms the artists and record label regarding profits. However, the main part of the post that i liked was when you referred to Amazon and Apple trying to get their hands into a lot of different aspects of technology, and more specifically music. This connected with a post that i read earlier about these companies taking control of the technology industry.I think its important to show that the appearance of companies like these has allowed exponential growth within the music industry with regards to number of songs available and new artists. nice job.

  7. Love that you stayed close to what is happening in the real world with itunes’ 10 anniversary and did a blog post about it! As an addicted user of itunes, I believe it is the single most revolutionizing thing that has happened to how we, the users, view the music industry. Before we were trapped in buying a whole album, but now we have more choices and less to pay for that single song that has been stuck in our heads. I agree that it has change the way that music is now produced. As the double edge sword that technology it is, I believe there are way more benefit of the itunes then there are cons. As a huge music geek, I think that itunes is the most revolutionizing thing Apple has ever created. Yes, even more revolutionary than the iphone.

  8. Great post! I thought you outlined iTunes pros and cons that not many people think even though almost all of us have iTunes accounts. With iTunes increasing prices, they also face competition from illegal download sites. Whenever I tell someone that I downloaded a song off of iTunes they look at me like I have two heads. Obviously, Apple tries to make this harder for people to do by not allowing those songs and content to transfer to your device. If Amazon and Rhapsody play their cards right, they can definitely start to challenge iTunes but I’m not sure it’ll happen in the near future. Rhapsody has been around a long time, but I have yet to see it make its mark in the industry.

    I also like your points about the pros and cons of artists using iTunes. I have heard before that artists make VERY little on iTunes sales. However, like you mentioned, it is able to give little known artists a chance to make it against some of the big names in the business.

  9. I think the approach you took on this blog is very effective and interesting. I like how you outlined how iTunes changed the music industry as a whole and posed how it used to be against how it is now, because of iTunes. This switch from album sales to the sale of singles did truly change the music industry. But I feel like this switch is not 100% negative for the people involved in the music industry. Although it brings them less profit than album sales, I feel that single sales allows people to evaluate each song and make an opinion on each song as opposed to the whole album, which can bring more positive opinions as a whole.

  10. Nice post. The idea of being able to buy just the couple songs you like off of an album instead of having to buy the whole album was definitely a huge change. There have been hundreds of times where I may like one or two songs from a certain album and if I had to buy the entire album I don’t think I would spend my money on it. However, I like how you pointed out that this causes the big name artists to make less money. But you also made a good point about how anybody can get on iTunes. It’s a great thing for aspiring artists to be able to easily get on iTunes to get their music out to the world.

  11. You raise a very interesting point in your blog post. Before iTunes, if you liked one song from an artist you’d have to purchase the entire album, which seems like such a waste of money. To make it as a musician, you needed a record producer, a contract and enough talent to get the previously mentioned help. With iTunes, the playing field has been leveled between amateurs and professionals. This way, it is easier for no-names to get recognized and possibly get that record deal and become big. iTunes is another great example of technology as a double-edged sword because it not only allows amateurs to publicize their music, but it also causes professionals to earn (slightly) less than they usually do. Great use of graphs and imagery!

  12. This was a really good post. I cannot believe that iTunes has been around for eight years already. I can remember buying my first song like it was yesterday. I do agree with you that iTunes has greatly changed the music industry. There is a much bigger emphasis on individual songs than on the whole album now that a person can buy just one song at a time. This obviously cuts into the profits of the artist, like you said. However, I think that iTunes hurts more than just the artists. I’m kind of old fashioned so I usually buy the whole album if it is a bad I like. But instead of going to a music store, I will buy it from iTunes. Prices for entire albums on iTunes are usually much cheaper than going to a store and buying it. This does not affect the artists, but it does affect the owners of the stores that sell CDs.

  13. Great post on how iTunes completely changed the music industry in only a couple of years. I have always heard that online music downloads like iTunes had caused the music industry to lose money, but I thought it was because of people just illegally downloading music. I had never thought how being allowed to download singles would have such an impact on music profits. But after reading your article I can see how important and powerful the change was. Apple has revolutionized so many things and on this 10th anniversary of iTunes we should not forget the first industry they revolutionized which was the music industry with iTunes.

  14. What a great post to commemorate iTunes on it’s 10th birthday! Clearly iTunes has achieved great success in the music industry, as it is now the main source of record sales transactions. You did a great job analyzing iTunes’ impact on the music industry by allowing listeners to buy singles versus complete albums. I also appreciated that you took a quick look into the future for iTunes with competitors like Amazon continuing to grow in popularity. The graphics you included were a great supplement to writing. It will be interesting to see how the next 10 years play out for iTunes, and how the music industry will continue to be impacted by the program.

  15. Great post! It is interesting to see how technology is impacting every industry in different and unexpected ways. Though it must be difficult for the music industry to adapt to this new sales trend I think that it is extremely beneficial for consumers. Consumers are now able to download exactly what they want and perhaps a song from ten different artists rather than ten songs from one artists. I think that iTunes drastically changed the music industry because it introduced the long tail into the industry. Now a consumer can download an obscure song from his or her desktop rather than searching in different music stores for the one song he or she wants. Hopefully in the long run music artists adapt to these changes and continue to thrive.

  16. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished
    to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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