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iTunes celebrates decade of change for music sales

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Bowie track may miss singles chart...File photo dated 25/11/2003 of David Bowie performing at Wembley Arena, as the singer's surprise and much talked-about comeback track looks set to miss out on a place in the singles chart. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday January 10, 2013. The song, Where Are We Now?, created a buzz around the world on Tuesday when it appeared without warning and soon topped the download charts on iTunes. But the Official Charts Company said that sales of the song have not been counted towards this week's top 40 because many sales are tied to orders for his new album. See PA story SHOWBIZ Bowie. Photo credit should read: Andy Butterton/PA Wire...E

Bowie track may miss singles chart...File photo dated 25/11/2003 of David Bowie performing at Wembley Arena, as the singer's surprise and much talked-about comeback track looks set to miss out on a place in the singles chart. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday January 10, 2013. The song, Where Are We Now?, created a buzz around the world on Tuesday when it appeared without warning and soon topped the download charts on iTunes. But the Official Charts Company said that sales of the song have not been counted towards this week's top 40 because many sales are tied to orders for his new album. See PA story SHOWBIZ Bowie. Photo credit should read: Andy Butterton/PA Wire...E

Andy Butterton

Bowie track may miss singles chart...File photo dated 25/11/2003 of David Bowie performing at Wembley Arena, as the singer's surprise and much talked-about comeback track looks set to miss out on a place in the singles chart. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday January 10, 2013. The song, Where Are We Now?, created a buzz around the world on Tuesday when it appeared without warning and soon topped the download charts on iTunes. But the Official Charts Company said that sales of the song have not been counted towards this week's top 40 because many sales are tied to orders for his new album. See PA story SHOWBIZ Bowie. Photo credit should read: Andy Butterton/PA Wire...E

FOR some people it has destroyed the music industry, for others it has saved it. Either way there is little doubt that iTunes, which turns 10 tomorrow, has changed the business for ever.

When Apple launched its music store in 2003, the industry seemed to be caught between the devil and the deep blue. The internet was already beginning to utterly change how consumers listened to music.

They were downloading songs instead of buying high-priced CDs, and many people weren't paying for their downloads at all.

File sharing

Anyone in their teens or early 20s who was online at the turn of the century was familiar with the likes of Napster, AudioGalaxy, Kazaa and the many other file-sharing sites that were around at the time.

Instead of walking into a HMV outlet and handing over €15 or €20 for an album, you could download it for free online. The fact that it was ethically ambiguous was neither here nor there.

The music industry was in crisis. Without CD sales, there were barely any outlets online where a music fan could legally download songs, and that was reflected in slumping revenue.

Then iTunes was launched.

The site has had its critics for years. By allowing customers to download one song at a time, it has removed the joy of discovering songs when you play an album for the first time. Why pay a tenner for the album and songs you may not like when you can just fork out 99c for the single you definitely will enjoy?

People within the industry worry that their own success is at the mercy of one company. If Apple decides not to promote an album, then the chances of success drop sharply. Once Apple takes its cut of sales (usually about 30pc) the margins for record companies are much tighter than they ever were.

The romantics, meanwhile, who perhaps grew up nosing through boxes of records and CDs in a shop, worry that the nature of internet shopping – which is geared to searching for a particular item – has taken away the wonder of coming across a random album and buying it because, say, the cover art looks nice.

And then there is the effect on record stores themselves. The demise of HMV in Ireland was just the latest evidence that a physical store can't compete with downloads.

Songs

Nevertheless, the people have spoken. By February more than 25 billion songs had been bought from the store worldwide.

It dwarfs any other paid-for music site. Rivals such as MyCokeMusic have come and gone, while others such as eMusic have remained niche players. Nobody has the scope of Apple's store.

It has also had the very deliberate effect of letting Apple lock up the MP3 player for generations to come. More than a decade after it was launched, the iPod still has a more than 70pc share of the market. Rivals such as Sony, Creative and iRiver have been left in the dust.

The iTunes store is now much more than a music store, with Podcasts, TV shows, films and university lectures among some of the media available on the store. A decade after it began, iTunes is definitely here to stay.

Irish Independent