Apple's Music Store isn't going anywhere — but the iTunes branding might

iTunes and App Store gift card
iTunes and App Store gift card (Image credit: iMore)

The folks at Digital Music News have once again picked up the rumor that Apple's iTunes Store is one swan song away from closure. According to confidential sources, the publication claims the service may shut down by 2019; these appear to be the same sources that first spread the rumor back in May of 2016, which prompted Apple PR representative Tom Neumayr to give Recode a definitive "Not true."

9to5Mac received the same "It's not true" earlier on Monday after querying Apple reps about DMN's latest report, to which I say: Is anyone surprised?

Even if this oft-repeated rumor were true, you wouldn't hear it on-record from Apple's PR department: We'd see an official release from the company itself if and when it became necessary to shut down the store.

Regardless, I don't see that happening anytime soon. The iTunes platform may be bloated and confused, but the music store isn't the source of its problems; that has to do with software design and messaging.

Yes, streaming services are by and large how we get our digital audio these days. Whether you're listening to Apple Music or a podcast subscription service like Earwolf, the likelihood that you've purchased recordings of said audio has gone down significantly over the last decade.

But even if purchase numbers drop to nothing, Apple still has next to no incentive to shut down the music store. The company already has the basic infrastructure in place for selling worldwide, and will continue to use it as long as it sells TV shows, films, and ringtones; there's little extra cost to use that platform for music. Bandwidth, too, should be little issue, given that Apple by necessity keeps a repository of digital music for streaming courtesy its iCloud Music Library and iTunes Match service.

The biggest cost Apple might incur in this arena is licensing: We don't know whether Apple is negotiating separate licensing deals for streaming and purchasing with its record labels, or they're decided as one lump contract. If the former, it might behoove the company to find a way to negotiate both at once, but it's also not a deal-breaker.

Because, at the end of the day, the music store generates revenue. It may not generate the behemoth profit it once did, but as long as the music store is still profitable for Apple, it's still worth running.

There's also the consideration of international sales to be had: Many countries have yet to gain access to Apple Music. Without full subscription support, shutting off music sales could rob Apple of a vital toehold in the music industry of that country.

Here's what I think will happen: iTunes, as we know it, is dying. Apple has all but moved away from the "I" branding, and rightfully so. As it evolves in the modern music and television space, Apple needs to build a brand that supports that mission. The iTunes app on the Mac is a mess; the iTunes app on the iPhone has been shunted off to a corner.

I don't see the death of Apple's music store in the next few years. But I can see a day where Apple integrates its existing purchasing services into its streaming options. Stream this album for $9.99 a month, but if you want to own it? Press this button and this track is yours forever. You can see a very primitive version of this in action with Apple's movie rental business: While rentals are time-limited in a way that subscription services are not, it still hooks into two very different frameworks while giving a seamless end-result to users.

Could Apple get rid of music sales someday? Sure. But right now, we've got quite a few more milestones to hit before that's a reality — and I don't see them happening by 2019.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

7 Comments
  • I could not agree more. They will take what is useful in iTunes and merge it into Apple Music, like purchasing of Music. Anything you have purchased is really tied to your Apple ID so the "app" is just a front end and right now iTunes is part of it. The only issue I see is there is no free, limited Apple Music option for those that just want to listen to the music they have purchased. Also movies and other things will need to be moved another app/s. iTunes, the front end app, is gone and by 2019 or sooner.
  • Sorry, I disagree with many things you say (which is unusual).
    ITunes 11 on the Mac was a disaster, but ITunes 12 is just fine. Just choose your Media type, and you’re essentially running a different app for each media type. Yes, Apple, as usual, has no software designers, just programmers! They build houses with no blueprints! Yes, there should be several apps instead of one overloaded app. But iTunes is just fine now. Yes, they should eventually create several apps by breaking iTunes apart as they did with the Podcast app.
    As a much older, wiser, retired software engineer, I also know the value of ownership. Sorry, IMO, only young fools throw their money away forever just renting what they consume. If you’re smart, you stop renting that apartment and buy a house! Think about it!
  • I'm rather new to Macs. iTunes makes no sense to me. I can code, design databases, and draft with CAD. I had training. I don't need training for iTunes. The user should never blame themselves for bad system design. It is fine for those that know it, but it's a horrible design. And that is Apple's dilemma.
  • That's a poor analogy ...
  • I'm also of the own-it-not-rent-it school. But I'm very frustrated with iTunes and I need someone's help with a problem I've had since Apple Music launched. I subscribe and I often use the "Add to Library" function when I come across a tune I like and want to keep. This is usually when I'm out and about using my iPhone. I want to eventually purchase the song in case I ever stop my Apple Music subscription and also to support the artist. But I now have many, many songs I've added and no easy way to purchase them, i.e., iTunes on my Mac does not have a way to 1) view the songs I've added and 2) quickly purchase them in the store. I spoke to a Senior Advisor at Apple and they agreed this wasn't possible. Anyone know a quick workaround?
  • It make a nice change to see your name popping up in the analysis section recently Serenity :) Makes a nice change of pace from the stacatto accented, near verbless, hyperventilating quavers he posts.
  • I don't pay for streaming, we still buy either CD's and rip them or just buy the M4A from iTunes, I much prefer that over streaming. That type of monthly subscription will not be something that we pay for.