Departing Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine is finally saying it out loud.
Back in 2016, we first reported on Apple’s plans to shut down iTunes music downloads. At the time, sources informed us that the shutdown was tentatively slated to happen ‘within 2-3 years‘.
Apple repeatedly denied those reports, though sources insisted that a timetable was in place. Then, in December of last year, our sources pointed to a plan to completely terminate iTunes music download sales by early 2019. That shutdown would involve paid downloads, though existing downloads (including purchased AACs and MP3s imported into iTunes) would still work.
+ December 6, 2017: Apple ‘On Schedule’ to Terminate Music Downloads by 2019
Now, an Apple executive has confirmed that a shutdown is indeed on the way.
The comment came from exiting Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine during an interview with the BBC. That interview was conducted earlier this month, and the story was published yesterday.
Here’s what the BBC article states, quoting Iovine:
Apple has previously denied rumours it would “phase out” the iTunes download store next year, but Iovine told the BBC such a move was inevitable.
There is no concrete timescale, but he said: “If I’m honest, it’s when people stop buying.
“It’s very simple.”
Iovine helped to launch Apple Music, a streaming platform that directly competes with the likes of Spotify, Amazon Music, TIDAL, and others. But Apple Music also directly competes with Apple’s own music downloads, and paid downloads are dropping precipitously as streaming music explodes.
Just recently at SXSW, Apple’s Eddy Cue announced that Apple Music had 38 million paying subscribers. Currently, the streaming platform is adding nearly 2 million subscribers a month, with more than 6 million trialling the service for free.
That’s a lot of people — who aren’t downloading music anymore, a shift that is clearly displayed in 2017 music industry sales data. According to both Nielsen Music and BuzzAngle, music downloads suffered double-digit drops last year. And they’ve been sinking for years.
Meanwhile, Apple has long-since retired its iPod family of devices. Of course, all of that functionality has shifted to the iPhone, though you’ll still see a few iPods and shuffles in the wild (especially among people working out). And with good reason: offline music listening is a simple pleasure, one that’s increasingly harder to experience.
All of which might explain why there’s a company solely focused on delivering offline streaming portability. Yet again, our relentless march towards technological innovation has left us longing for something ‘outdated’.
Would you like an MP3 with that vinyl record, sir?