Apple announced today that iTunes, the little digital music store that dared to think different-ly, has now sold over 25 billion songs. Billion. With a B. Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services had this to say:
We are grateful to our users whose passion for music over the past 10 years has made iTunes the number one music retailer in the world. Averaging over 15,000 songs downloaded per minute, the iTunes Store connects music fans with their favorite artists, including global sensations like Adele and Coldplay and new artists like The Lumineers, on a scale we never imagined possible.
No one imagined it. Back when iTunes launched, technology allowed anyone and everyone to rip and illegally share music, threatening it as a commercially viable business. At least as it was structured at the time. Many, burned by years of greed -- CDs that cost double what tapes had for the same content, artists who'd been cheated out of their work -- had little sympathy for assault on the plastic printing, truck hauling, store shelve filling oligopolies of record labels.
But Apple and Steve Jobs offered them a way out. A tiny platform with no market share to speak of, the record labels agreed. They hated him and Apple for it, of course, for de-bundling the album model that fetched them big bucks for 2 good songs and a bunch of filler, and for flattening their price structure so they could effectively compete with free-as-in-Napster/torrents.
And iTunes grew. Based on a new model of paying a fair price for a good product, iTunes exploded. Fearing Apple's dominance of online music, the record labels offered DRM free music to Amazon and other competitors, and allowed them to sell it for a lower price, but their spite was too little, too late.
Eventually iTunes struck the same DRM-free deal, and exchanged more flexible pricing for cellular downloads, and competitors failed to match their international distribution, or simply failed.
Wesley Schultz, guitarist and lead vocalist of The Lumineers:
In a lot of ways, iTunes has leveled the playing field for musicians. Whether you’re unsigned, indie, major, whatever—it’s the place most people go to buy digital music. iTunes doesn’t exclude any musicians simply because they’re not yet established or popular.
For forward thinking musicians, for customers who love music, for everyone but those who built empires by artificially intermediating the industry in an age that required enormous resources to record, ship, and sell product, iTunes has been a huge boon. And in spite of the lamentations of those dinosaurs, iTunes has let them salvage what business they could, often in spite of themselves, when the brief window that allowed for their exploitation snapped shut.
My most-played song last year was Airplane Mode's Epilogue, something that I would never have heard of before the modern, digital, age of music. That's not all due to Apple, of course. Many have found success selling directly, outside any iTunes-like store system. But iTunes played a huge part in the disruption that set music and musicians free.
Congrats iTunes. Here's to 25 billion more.
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