On the 28th of April 2003, iTunes was opened and the world was forever changed. It has redefined how people buy music and the way not only music, but all digital media is consumed.
In the early 2000’s the music industry was in complete and utter fear of online music privacy. By the end of 2002 it had successfully sued the file-sharing service, Napster into the ground, but this brought on more enemies that had learnt from their fallen brother and were harder to kill – the likes of Limewire and BitTorrent began to take over.
Steve Jobs was a genius, he was an opportunist and right at this point he saw one of the biggest opportunities of his life.
While the record industries thought that the piracy problem could be solved by locking down the CD’s and their files with DRM, Steve Jobs saw that it was clear that what people wanted was a to be able to download songs cheaply and easily and at the time there was no way to do this.
Jobs said that “Consumers don’t want to be treated like criminals, and artists don’t want their valuable work stolen,” – this philosophy is where iTunes began.
So Steve began contacting record labels and showed them beta versions of the iTunes software, he explained that it would be the store front and that people used Napster not because it was free but it gave them a way to connect to pretty much any piece of music. He allowed the labels to have a small amount of DRM and priced all songs for 99c. It had begun.
On April 28, 2003, the iTunes Music store was opened and the revolution had began. Apple had changed the stigma of getting digital music from being a criminal to being cool overnight. The iPod with its white earbuds was the must have thing and the iTunes store made it so.
It took only one week for iTunes to sell one million songs, and not long after, it became the top music retailer – beating both online and physical retail stores. Music was no longer about buying albums either, iTunes had turned the world into focusing on cheap singles, allowing them to get just the songs it wanted.
After seeing the success of iTunes, record labels started complaining about the deal they made for iTunes with Jobs, complaining about the 99c price and even over the fact that they didn’t get a cut from iPod sales.
It has been a decade since we first saw iTunes and it has changed the world forever, it celebrates the song instead of the album – before iTunes everyone would buy albums, iTunes encouraged you just to buy the songs you like. It killed the focus on sound quality – before iTunes sound quality was paramount, now the digital formats which compress files are easier to access so no one cares that the quality is less than that of a CD.
But the two biggest ways it changed the word lie with our mobile phones, computers and digital devices. Firstly, the iTunes store not only changed the way we bought music, but the way we got our TV shows and movies too – no longer did you have to get in the car and drive down to blockbuster to rent a movie, you simply opened your computer and in later years, your Apple TV, found the movie you wanted and you could watch it as many times as you like for 24 hours without having to leave your home. We no longer want to have to leave our house for digital media if it’s right in front of us, and we no longer consume our media on a television or CD player either – that media we bought is watched on our phones, tablets, computers and listened through our headphones or by docking our smartphones on speakers.
In 2008 Apple started a store that would change an industry – the App Store. This single store that branched off iTunes changed the mobile industry in such a way that its biggest players began struggling to keep on the map, almost over night. The phone no longer was about ringing someone or sending a text message, it was now a computer that you brought everywhere. You could download games, word processing apps, internet browsers, GPS programs – pretty much anything that you can think of that could be done with a touch-screen device with a camera.
iTunes today, though is starting to get some stiff competition, with its once refreshing and revolutionary way of buying music being dominated by streaming services as the previously bargain price of 99c a song is now deemed too expensive compared to paying $10 a month to have any song you want on just about any device you have. Although, sources in the music industry do confirm that Apple is working on its own Internet Radio services to compete with this market. iTunes’ track sales have dropped to their lowest point in 6 years. But the service is still as strong as ever though, even with the onslaught of streaming services, so don’t go thinking that iTunes is going to go bust soon because it certainly is not.
It has been 10 years since iTunes made its debut and changed the world, and while the global record industry has drastically dropped in value, from $38 billion in revenue more than a decade ago to $16.5 billion last year, Apple has grown to become one of the biggest companies in the world.