iTunes Music Store was launched by Apple in April 2003 as the first legal platform for purchasing digital music online. Since then, it radically changed the way people acquire and listen to music. But in the ever-evolving digital landscape, the question arises – is iTunes Music Store still available today?
Brief History of iTunes Music Store
In the early 2000s, online music piracy was rampant through services like Napster and Kazaa. The music industry was struggling with declining revenues. Apple saw an opportunity and negotiated deals with the top record labels to launch the iTunes Music Store in 2003.
iTunes Music Store was revolutionary as the first major platform where users could legally purchase individual digital song files for 99 cents apiece. At launch, it offered a catalog of over 200,000 songs from all the major labels and indie providers. Users could download the songs to sync with Apple’s popular iPod devices.
The store was an instant hit, selling over 1 million songs in the first week. Music fans enthusiastically embraced the concept of legally downloading only the individual songs they wanted. Record labels benefited from the new revenue stream in the face of piracy. Apple found success in integrating content sales with its devices.
Over the years, iTunes Music Store expanded with more songs, other media types like music videos, audiobooks, and podcasts, and support on Windows devices. It boasted a catalog of over 43 million songs by early 2018. Apple has paid out over $12.5 billion total to rights holders via iTunes Music Store download sales.
The Decline of iTunes Music Store
In the late 2000s, on-demand music streaming started gaining popularity through Spotify, Rdio, and others. Paid streaming subscriptions offered unlimited, on-demand music for a monthly fee – a major contrast to paying per download. As streaming caught on, download sales declined across the industry.
In 2015, revenues from streaming subscriptions overtook download sales for the first time in the US. That shift quickly accelerated, hastened by the launch of Apple Music in 2015. Apple’s own streaming service diminished focus on the aging iTunes Music Store. Downloads plunged 25% year-over-year in 2016 amidst the streaming boom.
In 2019, Apple announced that iTunes would be replaced by Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. The legacy media management and sales features of iTunes, including Books and iTunes Music Store, would be managed through the new Apple Music app.
By then, iTunes Music Store download sales had become an afterthought, making up only 7% of total music industry revenues. Streaming accounted for 80% of spending and physical sales made up the rest. The shift to streaming was now fully realized, leaving digital downloads far behind.
iTunes Music Store Download Sales Over Time
Is iTunes Music Store Still Available in 2023?
The short answer is yes, iTunes Music Store still exists as of October 2023. When iTunes was phased out in 2019, the media store features were ported over to the new Apple Music app on Mac, PC, and iOS.
Within the Apple Music app, there is still an iTunes Music Store section where users can purchase and download individual songs, albums, music videos, and other media. It functions similarly as it did before under iTunes.
However, iTunes Music Store is now tucked away as just one small feature within the much larger Apple Music app. Streaming is the primary focus, with iTunes Music Storedownloads de-emphasized.
On the iOS App Store app, there is no longer a dedicated iTunes Music Store section at all. The only way to access it is through the Apple Music app.
The iTunes Music Store catalog also appears to no longer be updated. Selections are limited to older music, with most newer popular releases only available to stream.
iTunes Music Store still exists as an option for purchasing downloads, but is clearly no longer a priority for Apple. It persists as a legacy feature while Apple Music streaming is the strategic focus.
What Does the Future Hold for iTunes Music Store?
The heyday of iTunes Music Store is clearly over. Streaming now dominates the music landscape. Industry revenues from streaming topped $11.4 billion in 2020, more than 10 times that from downloads.
Apple currently still runs iTunes Music Store alongside Apple Music for a few potential reasons:
- Honoring existing user libraries – Millions of users have purchased downloads over the years and still access them. Keeping iTunes Music Store allows them to re-download previously purchased music if needed.
- Offering song purchases – Downloads still appeal to some users who want to “own” music or have limited data. Apple maintains iTunes Music Store as an option, even if small.
- Extra revenue stream – iTunes Music Store still generates some revenue for Apple and music rights holders, likely at minimal overhead cost to maintain.
However, there is diminishing upside for Apple to invest in and grow iTunes Music Store. Music downloads are a shrinking market, making up an increasingly trivial amount of total industry revenues. Maintaining iTunes Music Store distracts focus from streaming through Apple Music.
It seems likely that iTunes Music Store will eventually shutter completely, perhaps within the next 5 years. Apple may first notify users well in advance to transition their libraries before finally removing download functionality.
It’s also possible Apple phases it out more gradually. For example, they could halt new releases being added to the store while still allowing re-downloads of previously purchased content.
But the clear long-term plan appears to be a single Apple Music brand and app focused entirely on streaming. iTunes Music Store still exists today in 2023, but its days seem numbered given the streaming-centric landscape.
iTunes Music Store was revolutionary when it launched in 2003 as the first mainstream platform for purchasing legal digital music downloads. But with the shift to streaming in the late 2000s, download sales entered permanent decline.
While iTunes Music Store still technically exists today in late 2023, it is now just a minor legacy feature within the Apple Music app. Streaming is Apple’s obvious strategic priority, and iTunes Music Store’s removal seems inevitable within a few years.
For those who grew up with iTunes and buying downloads in the early digital music era, the final shuttering of iTunes Music Store will mark the end of an era. But the convenience of streaming through Apple Music and competitors ensures fans can still readily access vast music catalogs.
iTunes forever changed the music industry landscape. The remaining vestiges of iTunes Music Store download sales are now consigned to history by streaming’s dominance.