When Apple finally ends iTunes, will it kill digital downloads forever?
Digital downloads have been heading for the cyber-scrapheap for some time.
ARIA figures show their value sinking from $131.2 million in 2016 to under $70 million in 2018.
Back in February, Apple ceased providing its download data to TMN for weekly music charts, the first real signal of its plans to abandon the format in lieu of streaming.
Multiple reports resurfacing on the weekend suggest Apple are ready to confirm the end of iTunes after 18 years.
An official announcement is expected as soon as Monday (June 3) at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, where the tech giant will also unveil upcoming software and new hardware.
Apple is widely expected to reveal a macOS update with new Music, Podcast and TV apps, all designed to replace iTunes.
Rolling Stone’s Amy X. Wang explains: “By portioning out its music, television and podcast offerings into three separate platforms, Apple will pointedly draw attention to itself as a multifaceted entertainment services provider, no longer as a hardware company that happens to sell entertainment through one of its many apps.”
After iTunes was first announced at Macworld Expo in 2001, it quickly became the world’s largest music retailer.
By 2013, it had 435 million registered users in 119 countries accessing between 26 million and 35 million tracks.
A man in Germany downloaded the 25th billionth track from iTunes that same year.
Artists and labels grumbled about what they made from it, but iTunes led the sea-change to the new world of consuming, making and marketing music.
Streaming certainly cut into download’s appeal as it became the dominant format.
In 2018, streaming amounted to 71.4% of the Australian recorded music market’s value, up 41.2% from 2017.
In the US, streaming made up 75% of its recorded music revenue by the end of 2018.
However, some analysts argue that reports on the death of the download are exaggerated.
The advent of 5G will accelerate download speeds tremendously and certainly lessen streaming’s advantage.
Certainly, in Japan and South Korea, consumers have returned to the download format, and that looks almost certain to be repeated in Australia.
Telstra’s 5G network went live on May 28 in selected cities for mobile broadband and mobile device customers.
Optus plans to follow in 2019 and Vodafone is not forthcoming about details given its merger plans with TPG.
WATCH: Steve Jobs introduces iTunes
Jobs delivers his first public demonstration of iTunes on macOS 9 (MacWorld SF, January 10, 2001).