How much does a song cost on iTunes?

Brief History of iTunes Song Pricing

iTunes first launched in January 2001 as a media player and organizer for Mac users. In April 2003, the iTunes Store was introduced, allowing Mac users to purchase and download digital music directly within the iTunes app for the first time.

When the iTunes Store launched, songs were priced at $0.99 for a single download. According to Apple, this low price helped kickstart the legal digital music market by providing an affordable alternative to illegal file sharing services. The standard $0.99 per song pricing established by iTunes back in 2003 has remained the dominant price point for a la carte music downloads from major online stores.

As noted in a Apple support article, iTunes utilized variable pricing tiers as low as $0.69 per song during sales or promotions in the early years. However, the standard $0.99 price prevailed as the norm for most single track downloads. This consistent and ubiquitous $0.99 pricing helped set consumer expectations around the cost of digital music.

Standard Song Price Today

Most songs on iTunes today are $0.99 or $1.29 per download.[1] This standard price has been in place for over a decade, ever since Apple moved to a flat-rate pricing model in April 2009 and did away with tiered pricing based on popularity.[2] At that time, songs went from costing $0.69, $0.99, or $1.29 down to just $0.69 or $0.99. Then in 2018, Apple bumped the standard price up to $0.99 or $1.29 for most countries.[3]

So for the past several years, the typical price to download a song from iTunes has been right around $1, give or take a few cents depending on current pricing tier. This flat rate applies equally to popular new releases and back catalog tracks. While Apple used to charge more for in-demand songs, it now keeps pricing simple with just two tiers.

In the U.S. iTunes store, most songs fall into the $1.29 tier as of 2023. In other countries, prices are adjusted slightly based on market considerations, but generally hover right around $1 equivalent. Overall, despite some small price fluctuations over the years, Apple’s iTunes song pricing has remained quite stable since going to a standard flat rate.




Factors Influencing Price

There are several factors that can influence the pricing of songs on iTunes and other digital music stores. Some key factors include:

Song length – Longer songs tend to be priced slightly higher than shorter songs. Apple generally prices songs under 5 minutes at $0.99 and songs over 5 minutes at $1.29.1

Popularity and demand – More popular artists and current hit songs tend to be priced at a premium. New releases from major pop stars are often priced at $1.29 while catalog tracks may be $0.99.

Record label policies – Major record labels have leeway in setting prices on iTunes for their artists within Apple’s price tiers. Labels may choose to price superstar acts at higher tiers.

In general, factors like song length, demand, and record label decisions can influence the pricing on iTunes above the standard $0.99 price point.

Album vs Single Song Prices

There are different pricing structures on iTunes for buying single songs versus entire albums. Typically, downloading an individual song will cost $1.29 while entire albums usually start at $7.99 and go up in price from there.

According to discussions on Apple’s own forums [1], if a listener has already purchased one song from an album with multiple tracks, Apple recommends just buying the remaining songs individually rather than repurchasing the full album. This is because single song purchases will be cheaper overall.

Apple uses wholesale pricing for both albums and individual songs in their iTunes store [2]. So full albums tend to be priced at a discount to make them more attractive to buyers looking for a bulk purchase.

Country Pricing Differences

iTunes song prices can vary slightly by country. According to Android Authority [1], the monthly cost of an Apple Music Individual plan ranges from $1.19 in India to $16.24 in Denmark. Cashnet USA reports that India has the cheapest Apple Music subscription at $1.32 per month, while Denmark is the most expensive at $15.50 [2]. Subscriptionland notes that prices can vary widely depending on your location [3]. So while songs generally cost $0.99-$1.29 on iTunes in the US, prices may be slightly lower or higher in other countries.

Sales and Discounts

iTunes periodically offers sales and discounts on songs to entice users to purchase music. Some of the common sales and discounts include:

Weekly $0.69 song sales – Apple frequently discounts select songs to $0.69 for one week periods. This allows users to purchase hit songs at a lower price point.

Complete My Album discounts – If you’ve previously purchased some songs from an album, Apple will give a discount on the remaining songs to encourage you to complete the entire album purchase.

Holiday sales – Around major holidays like Christmas, iTunes will offer discounts on select albums or broad categories of music to drive increased sales volume.

By offering periodic sales and discounts, Apple is able to provide incentives for users to purchase music while also generating spikes in sales activity around key dates.

Alternative Music Stores

iTunes is not the only option for purchasing digital music online. Other major stores like Amazon and Google Play also sell MP3 downloads. In general, song prices on these alternative stores are very comparable to iTunes.

On Amazon MP3, most songs range from $0.69 to $1.29. This matches the typical $0.99 to $1.29 price range found on iTunes. However, Amazon frequently offers discounts and sales that can drive prices down. For example, Amazon Prime members can purchase select digital albums for just $5 (1).

Similarly, Google Play music store sells songs for $0.69 to $1.29 depending on popularity. They also run frequent sales with prices as low as $0.49 per song (2).

One advantage of alternate stores like Amazon and Google Play is their use of universal MP3 files, compared to iTunes’ proprietary AAC format. MP3s offer wider compatibility and can be played on more devices (3).

However, iTunes still remains the dominant player in terms of music store selection and integration with Apple devices. But for shoppers looking for bargain prices, checking alternate stores can pay off.



Purchasing Full Albums

Buying a whole album at once is usually cheaper than purchasing each song individually. Albums on iTunes typically cost around $9.99 for standard versions and $11.99 for deluxe editions. This means each song ends up costing only $1-1.50 when you buy the full album.

According to Apple’s iTunes Plus Album Prices discussion forum, iTunes album pricing has remained consistent over the years at around $9.99 for most titles [1]. Even when some songs have already been purchased, buying the full album is often still a better deal. As noted on Apple’s support forums, if you’ve bought 2 songs already from an album for $1.29 each, completing the album with the remaining 10 songs costs just $7.99 [2]. This totals to $10.57 overall, cheaper than individually buying all 12 songs.

The ‘Complete My Album’ option in iTunes makes it easy to get the full album discount after purchasing individual songs. Simply click the ‘Complete’ button on the album page to buy the remaining tracks at a reduced bundle price [3]. So downloading the full album at once saves money compared to an à la carte approach.

Subscription Streaming Cost

Apple Music offers subscribers access to over 90 million songs for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 (Apple Music). This allows Apple Music subscribers to stream songs on-demand without having to purchase individual tracks or albums.

In comparison, purchasing songs individually on iTunes costs $1.29 per song (If I purchase apple music does it charge when i download …). So purchasing 90 million iTunes songs at $1.29 per song would cost over $116 million! This demonstrates why subscribing to Apple Music can be vastly more cost-effective than purchasing a large music library on iTunes.

One key difference, however, is that subscribers do not own the songs they stream on Apple Music like they would if they purchased on iTunes. If an Apple Music subscriber cancels their subscription, they lose access to the songs. iTunes purchases are retained even if you unsubscribe from Apple Music.

So while Apple Music subscriptions provide a more budget-friendly way to access a huge catalog of music, purchasing select albums and songs on iTunes gives permanent ownership of that music. The best option depends on an individual’s listening habits and budget.

Cost Per Play Analysis

When analyzing the cost per play of downloading versus streaming music, there are a few factors to consider. Downloaded songs purchased on iTunes and other digital stores allow unlimited plays with no recurring costs. However, the initial purchase price per song can range from $0.69 to $1.29 currently (Source: Reddit). Streaming through a service like Spotify grants access to a vast music library for a recurring monthly fee, usually $9.99 for premium individual accounts. With unlimited streaming, the cost per play equates to a fraction of a penny. However, streaming requires an internet connection and the songs cannot be kept if you unsubscribe. Ultimately, downloading purchases each song permanently while streaming subscribes you to temporary access. Frequent listeners may find greater value in streaming services, while more casual listeners benefit from buying select songs to own indefinitely.