Goodbye Downloads. Apple No Longer Lets You Link To iTunes Store

apple-music-itunes-killer

Man, Apple is hurting. Sources say that Apple Music will only have 3.5 million subscribers after November cancellations (15 million initially signed up for the trial period beginning June 30th).  Spotify projects they will reach 100 million users by year’s end. Even Jay Z’s Tidal, which everyone in the industry had pretty much given up on, has a million paying subscribers.

So how is Apple looking to win over new streaming customers?  By making a better product than the rest?  Nope!  Apple Music’s UI is a disaster.  Not only is it cluttered and completely nonintuitive, it messes up users’ owned music library.  Some genius at Apple (pun intended) thought to combine the new Apple Music streaming service with people’s personal music libraries that everyone had taken great pains to curate, customize and purchase over the years.  Music fans worldwide put their trust into Apple.  And why wouldn’t they?  The iTunes music library, player and store used to be fantastic.  The best.  Same with the iPod, iPad and the iPhone.  Everything ‘just worked.’

But in the post-Jobs Apple dystopia, nothing seems to work.  One glance at Apple products like Numbers and Pages (Apple’s versions of Microsoft Excel and Word) in the App Store is all it takes to see the downfall.  They each have about 2 stars (out of 5). And all the “most helpful” reviews are frustrated former Apple fans venting about how these products just don’t work anymore and are getting worse and worse with every update.  The Apple Watch is similarly flawed, frustrating Apple loyalists everywhere.  When Apple jumped from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X, it alienated every professional film maker using the program.  You can’t access the web from Apple TV and it doesn’t come with Amazon (to stream Transparent) or Spotify (yeah, yeah, they’re competitors, but you can get both on the iPhone and iPad).

Apple Maps was a disaster. Apple Music is worse.

+I’m An Independent Artist And Apple Music Screwed Up My Entire Discography

You can’t wait this long to get into the streaming field and then drop the ball so hard.  So, how is Apple now trying to get users to signup for their horribly flawed new streaming service?  By changing every new and existing iTunes link to point to Apple Music instead of iTunes.

I know you’re probably screaming, ‘why would Apple intentionally inhibit sales for their most profitable digital product?!’  Well Apple has the cash for this investment.  They know streaming is the future of the music industry whether people stream on Apple or not.  Apple is so late to the game, they are trying desperate measures.  Spotify has worked its way into music’s vernacular and has become the generic term for streaming.  Kleenex, Q-tips, Ziploc and now, Spotify.

iTunes owns downloads. Spotify owns streaming.

I understand why Apple is pushing their new product so hard, but what they clearly don’t realize (or care) is many indie artists still rely on iTunes revenue to pay their bills.  Yes digital download purchases are shrinking monthly, but Apple is helping usher them off the cliff once and for all.

Streaming has the potential to make artists more money in the long run.  But definitely not in the short term.  At least not yet.  And definitely not for indie artists who aren’t pulling in the superstar streaming numbers and didn’t get massive advances from the streaming services (like major labels enjoyed).

iTunes is still the most popular music store in the world.  Sure downloads are slipping, but they’re not gone just yet.  In 2014, there were over a billion iTunes downloads.  And there will be nearly as much this year.

Now, when you click a desktop link to an iTunes download, Apple will reroute you to the song in Apple Music, urging you to sign up.

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There’s no “No Thanks” or “Skip” button, which then takes you to the download you are looking to buy.  If you choose not to join Apple Music, that’s it.  You have to click over to the iTunes Store, then type the artist’s name or song title in the search field and sift through the results.  Every marketing expert knows that the more clicks required at point of sale, the less likely a sale will happen.

Visit any musician’s website from superstar to local band and they will most likely have a link to iTunes.  Go click it from your desktop.  See what happens.

YouTubers who get millions of views a month (but have no label giving them an advance, no interest in touring and no merch to sell), depend on iTunes revenue.  Yes, it’s disappearing.  Yes, YouTubers (and all artists) are finding alternative revenue sources during this transition period (via Sponsorships, Patreon, BandCamp, PledgeMusic and BandPage), but let the transition happen naturally.

+The Largest Independent Music Store Moves To Subscription Model

This is like heading down to Amoeba Music, bringing a CD to the checkout counter only to have the clerk slap you across the face, confiscate the CD, make fun of you for spending money on a dying format and then proceed to sell you a subscription to their music club you have no interest in being a part of.

Yes, streaming is the future.  Yes, it’s inevitable.  Yes, in the long run, it is better for the music industry.  But, for godsake, let people pay if they still want to!

**Update: A current hack to bypass Apple Music is to use smarturl.it. You can customize your links and select if you’d like the user to be taken to Apple Music or iTunes (or Amazon/Google Play/BandCamp if they are on Android). Unfortunately YouTube does not allow smarturl (or bit.ly) links in annotations or Cards, so YouTubers will just have to settle for putting them in the description for now (like Pharrell did). 

**Update: It seems Apple’s new El Capitan OS update correctly routes iTunes links to iTunes store. Anyone running Apple’s previous operating systems still get routed to Apple Music.

 

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

56 Responses

  1. steve jobs

    tim cooke blows, fuck him. totally flushing the apple brand down the toilet.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    “Now, when you click a desktop link to an iTunes download, Apple will reroute you to the song in Apple Music, urging you to sign up.”

    Apple Music, please die.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Yes, for new links you can add the app=iTunes crap (or smarturl) to make it point to iTunes. But what about teh millions (billions?) of existing links pointing to iTunes on the web? Everyone who has ever linked to iTunes should go back and change every existing link? That is ridiculous. Every one of these links now points to Apple Music, and always will.

      Our blessed blogcaptain PR loves bringing up linkrot, well here’s some ultimate linkrot.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Oh right, now remembering why this site is the worst, because of comments like this.

        Did I say this was the fix for old links? No. All I said was “Use a smarturl and it still works fine”. I wasn’t even trying to defend apple. Just giving some advise. Chill the fuck out.

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      Yes, for new links you can add the app=iTunes crap (or smarturl) to make it point to iTunes. But what about the millions (billions?) of existing links pointing to iTunes on the web? Everyone who has ever linked to iTunes should go back and change every existing link? That is ridiculous. Every one of these links now points to Apple Music, and always will.

      Our blessed blogcaptain PR loves bringing up linkrot, well here’s some ultimate linkrot.

      Reply
  3. Tone

    I wonder if Ian Rogers left Apple because he thought Apple Music was gonna be a failure.

    Reply
  4. Haters gonna hate

    Ari, why would you compare 3.5 million paid subscribers for Apple with ‘a reported 100 million’ ad supported ‘subscribers’ for Spotify (after 5+ years)? Apples and Oranges. It does not aid your credibility when you stilt ‘data’ to one side and does nothing to validate your analysis opening an opinion piece this way. It’s not insignificant that 3.5 million paid users are on Apple Music after just a few months. More than Spotify had after 3 months by a long way…

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      Let me throw some more apples-to-apples stats into the ring, then. Spotify will probably have 25 million paying subs by the end of the year, compared to, let’s say 5 mm at most on Apple’s end. Now, a very large percentage, even a majority of Spotify subs may not be paying full rate, so keep that in mind.

      But I think Ari’s mention of 100 million (also likely projection by year end) is worth throwing out there. Apple Music (at the behest of Jimmy Iovine it seems) has drawn a firm stake in the ground on paid streaming, with no freebies after a three-month trial. That will create a far greater per-stream payout to artists and rights owners, but I’m not sure it can survive competitively if Spotify and YouTube (not to mention SoundCloud) maintain their free tiers.

      If those are closed, then, perhaps we have a true, ‘apples-to-apples’ game here.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Not all of Apple’s subscribers are paying the full rate either. Their family plan is very “cost-effective”. What is it, $15 for up to 5 accounts? Something like that.

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      After 3 months of Spotify most people didn’t have a clue what streaming was. Certainly not like they do now anyway

      Reply
  5. abcd

    What is the app=iTunes workaround? I have a site with a lot of iTunes downloads hard coded in html and would like to update them if possible. Thanks in advance to anyone that can help…

    Reply
  6. Anon

    I think it’s a terrible move by Apple, though it’s worth noting that it’s been this way pretty much since they launched the streaming site and can be avoided by using a site like smarturl.it

    Reply
  7. Robert Jensen
    Robert Jensen

    Apple is on a sinking ship and they are trying whatever they can to get subscribers. If the UI sucks though, all hope is lost. It looks like Spotify wins. As crappy as that is. Apple blew it by not putting out an improved interface, over Spotify.

    Reply
  8. DavidB

    “Visit any musician’s website from superstar to local band and they will most likely have a link to iTunes. Go click it from your desktop. See what happens.”

    OK, I decided to check this out, and I thought an obvious test case would be – Ari Herstand! So I went to Ari’s website, and, lo – I couldn’t find any links to iTunes, so I couldn’t check it!

    Then I decided to check out a ‘superstar’. I searched for Pharrell Williams on YouTube, and clicked on the first result, which not surprisingly was ‘Happy’. The info for this includes a link to iTunes. On clicking this link, guess what, it goes to the iTunes Store There would be nothing to stop me buying a download straight away. Now, it is true that I do have an Apple Music account, so Apple’s system may have detected this and not steered me towards the ‘try Apple Music’ message. But Ari Herstand presumably also has an Apple Music account, so that doesn’t explain the difference. Before getting too agitated, I think we need to know just what categories of people are getting these messages and why.

    Reply
    • Ari Herstand
      Ari Herstand

      There are links to iTunes on AriHerstand.com next to every song and beneath every album. Not sure which website you went to.

      Pharrell uses smarturl on his YouTube video – which is a hack. A workaround. If you copy the actual “copy link” from Pharrell’s iTunes store then paste that into the URL (or embed on any website) it will send you to Apple Music.

      Reply
  9. Steven Cravis

    One thing I actually like about the current configuration is that it’s a one way ticket to the downloads. So if you give only the link ending in ?app=itunes where the customer lands will give them no link from there to the Apple Music streaming (New tab) location of that album. Though if they (likely) land in Apple Music first, at least if they use any song option (those three dots on the desktop version of itunes that appear when you hover the mouse just to the right of each song title) at the Apple Music page, to ‘Show in iTunes Store’ they will land in the iTunes (tab) page for the entire album.

    Reply
  10. Anon

    Apple has become a total mess. I wonder if these morons even did that intentionally.

    Each OS release just adds new areas of spying on users and bloat. Their new ‘entry level’ $1500 computers are slower than many phones- with processors as slow as 1.4 gig.

    Apple Music will not be a success for them, and it is a disaster for recorded music.

    Reply
  11. Anon

    Apple has become a total mess. I wonder if these morons even did that intentionally.

    Each OS release just adds new areas of spying on users and bloat. Their new ‘entry level’ $1500 computers are slower than many phones- with processors as slow as 1.4 gig.

    Apple Music will not be a success for them, and it is a disaster for recorded music.

    xxx

    Reply
  12. Thomas N.

    I’ve had this totally crippling cold since Monday. But sweet baby Jesus, did this clowntard make me sit right up at the computer and pretend to work by typing angrily at the Internet!

    One crucial thing is usually left out by musicians writing endless bitter rants about “post-Jobs dystopia”. Wait for it: Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. In this context, only imbeciles quote poor star ratings of Apple’s own apps on the App Store.

    This peculiar factoid of profitability becomes spectacular in its own right if you even take a quick glance at the razor-thin margins of computer hardware manufacturers in general.

    In case you’re unfamiliar with this, here’s an exercise. Picture the big electronics brands snorkeling down towards the bottom in a steaming cesspit that represents the combined market value of selling price sensitive Windows PCs and Android shitphones.

    Apple keeps its feet firmly on the ground beside the cesspit. They do so by selling, usually at a premium, a line products that often succeeds at providing an interconnected web of additional value (and/or lock-in) for loyal customers.

    By all means, from the perspective of anyone like me who prefers Spotify, the value of Apple Music is, as of this moment, limited to that of watching a hilarious tragicomedy.

    Undoubtedly, the state of Music can be truly frustrating for people who’ve actually spent the past ten years buying tracks and albums off of iTunes, a service designed to create customer loyalty. Specifically, loyalty to the quaint idea of buying iPods, a product line of devices that do very little but play music.

    Just as Apple Maps, Music is garbage because everyone else is far ahead. Turns out: mapping the world at a centimeter level in order to (sooner than the Taxi unions of the world wants) power self-driving cars isn’t only a multi-billion endeavor. It also takes fucking years.

    Google knew this when it started out in the exciting business of applied cartography. The established stakeholders in the electronic maps and GPS hardware market thought they could afford to scoff at Google Maps, but surprisingly: relatively few consumers give fuck all about GPS hardware these days.

    So: Apple isn’t only late to the game of on-demand music streaming. They also carry the burden of the iTunes dinosaur itself. In my opinion, iTunes was always a clumsy attempt at doing too many things: a storefront and maintaining a music library of not only downloaded purchases, but also a maze of music files that have appeared from somewhere else, like CD ripping.

    But by being so hugely profitable, Apple can afford the painful necessity of severing ties with previous means of generating added value and revenue. And they can afford to do so at the instant when their existing offerings suffer a decline in added value per customer. Like ad-rich Google did with Maps, hardware profitable Apple can also afford to pour money into development of added value side products, like Maps and Music.

    How should I put this politely: Anyone who has a shit fit because of Apple dismembering the iTunes experience doesn’t quite deserve the corner office. The status of the iTunes model as a gold synthesizing but aging grey goose has been evident for years.

    The fate of iTunes sales wasn’t necessarily sealed right at the moment when Daniel Ek got a bunch of desperate Swedish music execs to sign on to Spotify. But the writing on the wall became clear over time.

    At every funding round, Spotify’s investors and owners (including the big music labels) decided not only to keep the money flowing in the long term to maximize expansion of the largely unprofitable freemium service. They also went ahead and reinvested every bit of meager revenue.

    Apple may have been presented by many as a Messiah figure in the music industry since way back when they chased and eventually displaced Walmart as the biggest music retailer in the US. But has anyone looked at iPod sales lately? Protip: sales are down. Where does Apple make its money? Again: Internet-connected devices.

    In the light of these facts, Apple would be massively stupid for not taking some healthy risks while rapidly getting the fuck out of this shitshow of a racket that is download music retail.

    Reply
    • Name2

      In the light of these facts, Apple would be massively stupid for not taking some healthy risks while rapidly getting the fuck out of this shitshow of a racket that is download music retail.

      But noooes! Selling shitty-sounding files for $1.29 which everyone regrets a week later makes the world go ’round!

      Reply
  13. Tony Windle

    Hi Ari
    thanks for writing about this. I thought I had my links tricked-out to bypass this, but alas, when someone clicks the iTunes button on my website, it takes them to the iTunes Store Preview website. And as you said: as soon as you hit ‘view in iTunes,’ it drives the user to the ‘New’ section of Music, pointing to the ONLY (1) song I have available on Music, not the full library available on the store. This will confuse people for sure. > All three of them!:)
    Hopefully articles like these (I know the Apple Music folk read ’em) will bring a fix. Meanwhile, I need to fix my links!
    BTW – the first thing I noticed when my Apple Music trial ran out, and I un-checked ‘view Apple Music’ on my Music App – it was way less cluttered, and my playlists were perfect, with the correct track-versions. As much of an Apple fan-boy I am, if I must stream music, I will continue to use Spotify as it is so much easier on both the eyes and the thumbs!
    cheers!
    T

    Reply
      • Tony Windle

        Thanks Ari – I did, and I was able to use the custom link feature, which is great. I would rather have the actual link to the iTunes store work, but I love the opportunity to have stats and an easy custom URL – and even a QR code, haha!

        Reply
  14. Beau Wright

    As an Android user, I am sitting on the sidelines watching Apple Music fail. These updates have been nice to stay “in the loop” (Thanks Ari!) However, I will say that Apple did not “[alienate] every professional filmmaker” as you said. I am a professional editor in the video world (music is my expensive hobby) and I work in both Premiere and Final Cut X. At first FCPX sucked. They released it way before it was ready. That did cause it to loose some of the professional editors to Adobe, but over the last two years they have really refined it and turned it into something great. A lot of us freelancers continue to use FCPX. In fact, I know a local TV station in my area that is using FCPX exclusively now. So as musicians, we have to hope it will be the case for Apple Music too and they will fix and improve it over the next year or two.

    Reply
    • Versus

      Civilization was discovered in Europe? Where?
      How did it remain untouched and undiscovered until now?

      Reply
  15. Anonymous

    There’s no “No Thanks” or “Skip” button, which then takes you to the download you are looking to buy. If you choose not to join Apple Music, that’s it. You have to click over to the iTunes Store, then type the artist’s name or song title in the search field and sift through the results. Every marketing expert knows that the more clicks required at point of sale, the less likely a sale will happen.

    Visit any musician’s website from superstar to local band and they will most likely have a link to iTunes. Go click it from your desktop. See what happens.

    LOLz. Apple does what’s good for Apple. Any questions?

    Reply
      • Name2

        You’ve never heard ME say what Apple is “supposed to” do. Ask Apple that. Or better yet, ask one of the DMN peanut gallery. They’ve always got something to say about what every tech company in the world is “supposed to” do.

        You’ve never heard me say what’s best for Apple’s customers. Ask Apple’s customers.

        Reply
  16. Ryan

    Apple Music is a disaster. I gave it a free trial run, but quickly disabled it and went back to Spotify. They screwed up all my album covers, song titles, curation etc… It also doesn’t let you steam off wifi unless you download it up your phone. Which is impossible to tell what is on the phone and only in Apple Music, until you’ve left the wifi. What idiot creates this? What idiot let it get released to the public? Where is Taylor Swift to fight for musicians rights?

    Reply
    • There is something...

      Totaly untrue. If you want to play the Spotify shill, at least try to know your sh*it.

      Reply
  17. Zana Elfy

    Apple has fucked up iTunes… well glad I never updated, because I can still use it like before (for so long)… well at least with torrents you don’t get this bullshit.

    Reply
  18. Shlomo

    I wonder if Taylor can fix this. Someone call Scott immediately and demand that he call Tim and fix this Crap. Crowdsourcing artists fans to increase subscribers. Apple is tricking every musical artists into being an affiliate marketer without paying or telling them. Eminem, Taylor, Metallica, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson are now working for free for apples affiliate marketing. Kudos Jimmy!

    Reply
  19. New Title of this Article- Your favorite musician is now an employee at Apple and they work for FREE

    Suggested title change

    Reply
  20. superduper

    WTF is this? Why should Apple force this stupid streaming crap down everybody’s throat? What’s wrong with a paid download anyway?

    Reply
  21. tony

    this new apple stuff sucks. and this prove you are a human shit sucks. im no good at math

    Reply
  22. Youri

    I have tried Apple Music and did not like it. I am very worried that iTunes will soon disappear just like aperture and so many others. Like manyI have invested huge amount of time and money to build my iTunes library.
    And it has started with the music iOS app… Whenever you search for song, you are directed to Apple Music and you can’t even go to the iTunes Store directly, you have to do that separately, very annoying and a sign that Apple will not support iTunes Store for long…
    I have been (like many) an apple fan but I am now paying great attention to limit my dependencies to their ecosystems, they are just not loyal with their existing customers anymore.

    Reply

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