Ian Macrae ian.macrae1 at sky.com
Mon Jun 3 11:19:55 BST 2019

Thought people might be interested in this piece from today’s Guardian.

[Page 3] <> Apple changes tune: download service to be axed as customers switch to streaming <>
Lanre Bakare

It was once heralded as a possible saviour of the music industry in the digital age, it famously annoyed fans by forcing a U2 album on them and its 20,699-word terms and conditions have even inspired a graphic novel, but now Apple is to close down iTunes .

The company is. expected to announce today that the download service will be replaced by three separate apps for music, TV and podcasts, as Apple attempts to reposition itself as an entertainment service rather than a hardware company. Launched on 9 January 2001, iTunes was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs's then-revolutionary platform for the iPod generation to download and store their music. Users could rip their CDs into digital form and legally buy albums over the internet, rather than using popular peer-to-peer file-sharing sites such as Napster, which had arrived two years earlier. Although other companies - including Microsoft and Sony - had considered launching music stores, the former Warner Music vice-president Paul Vidich said they "weren't companies that had demonstrated Apple's sophistication with regard to software".

He said: "Apple was able to bridge those two things and come up with an attractive consumer product. What Steve was doing with iTunes was to replicate that type of experience - a vast catalogue, available on a singles basis, with a convenient interface. It had to be easier than Napster."

But in the here-today, gone-tomorrow world of tech, iTunes, and its use of downloads, became old-fashioned, as companies including Spotify introduced successful streaming services.

Launched in 2008, Spotify offered unlimited advertising-free access to its catalogue of music for a fee (now £9.99 a month for its premium service). It claims to have 217 million users worldwide with 100 million paid subscribers to the service, while Apple's rival streaming service, Apple Music, has about 56 million paid subscribers worldwide. When Apple Music launched in 2015, alongside a radio service that featured regular shows from Zane Lowe and Drake, rumours started circulating that iTunes would not exist beyond 2020. But there was a period when iTunes looked like it might still be the future. In December 2013, it scored a huge success when Beyoncé's eponymous fifth album sold 828,773 copies on the iTunes store in the first few days of its surprise release.

Two years later, the singer and other pop stars including Madonna and Kanye West helped to launch Tidal, a streaming service founded by Beyoncé's husband, Jay Z, to compete with Spotify and iTunes. Even though Tidal has since struggled, streaming has proved to be the most robust digital music service and the popularity of downloads has declined rapidly.

In December 2016, physical sales of music in the UK - bolstered by a revival in vinyl record sales- overtook digital downloads, with sales of £2.4m compared with the £2.1m brought in by digital music purchases. In 2014, a marketing gimmick, in which U2's album Songs of Innocence was automatically added to 500 million users' iTunes accounts, backfired badly. Customers complained about not having a choice and the band's singer Bono had to apologise. The demise of the iTunes service, according to Bloomberg, is expected to be announced when the Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, addresses the company's worldwide developers conference in San Jose, California, which starts today.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardian.

Ian Macrae

ian.macrae1 at sky.com

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