Apple is now scheduling an end date for paid iTunes music downloads, according to sources inside the company.
Apple is now experiencing meteoric growth on its streaming music platform, Apple Music. But that growth is directly impacting Apple’s old-line downloads store, for obvious reasons. And, ultimately hastening its demise.
Just last week, Apple executive Jimmy Iovine pointed to a shutdown when ‘people stop buying’. Now, sources inside the company are pointing to a firm date for a planned shutdown of the iTunes music download store. Earlier, these same sources pointed to an ‘early 2019’ shutdown, though internal roadmaps now include a March 31st, 2019 phase-out of the service.
The sources clarified that this would only be the announcement date. Effectively, that will set in motion the shutdown, with users given ample warning of the upcoming phase-out.
Additionally, the sources stressed that music downloads will always work on all Apple devices and the iTunes platform, across all versions. That includes music purchased on iTunes, or uploaded from any other source. So you’ll always be able to play MP3s, iTunes-purchased AACs, and even older, DRM-protected iTunes songs (many years ago, song downloads were ‘DRM protected,’ creating limitations on file-sharing and other uses).
Other variations, including ‘iTunes Plus’ downloads and video downloads, will always be playable.
You’ll also be able to manage your music download collection on iTunes without issue. Apple will only be ending its paid download offering.
Also, older iPods, including iPod shuffles and iPod video players, will all keep working and playing song downloads. That’s worth noting for people that prefer their older, disconnected devices for off-grid listening. Or, just something simpler for a jog, workout, or dog walk.
No, you can’t upgrade your iPod, but at least it won’t turn into a brick. And iTunes synching will always work (though we’re not sure it will be upgraded over time).
Initially, Apple denied that any termination plans existed. That has now changed.
+ March 26th, 2018: An Apple Executive Says iTunes Music Downloads Will Be Shut Down
As noted, a top Apple Music executive confirmed that music downloads would be terminated. But an exact date wasn’t supplied. “If I’m honest, it’s when people stop buying,” the executive, Jimmy Iovine, told the BBC. “It’s very simple.”
Iovine has played a critical role in the development of Apple Music, which now boasts 40 million paying subscribers. On top of that, an additional 6-7 million may be trialling the service. That is rapidly catching up to Spotify’s 71 million, and underscores the huge shift away from downloads (paid or otherwise).
Indeed, a major issue for Spotify’s future growth forecast is Apple, which is arguably already bigger than Spotify. In terms of revenue, Apple Music already appears to be generating more income, thanks to higher per-subscriber rates and the absence of an expensive ad-based free tier. Throughout, Iovine has been a vocal critic of ad-based streaming, given its tendency to devalue music and dramatically lower artist payouts.
Amazingly, Apple’s paid-only approach is working. But getting more people to shift from $1.29 song downloads to $9.99 monthly accounts isn’t easy. Now, it appears that Apple is looking accelerate that transition for later-adopting music fans and finally surpass Spotify’s early lead.
Top image by Mike Mozart (CC by 2.0).