According to music industry insiders speaking with Digital Music News, Apple had formally prepared to shut down iTunes music downloads on March 31st, 2019.
Pointing to an eventual shutdown of the revolutionary – albeit bloated – software, Jimmy Iovine, Apple’s former Head of Music, explained the company would eventually stop selling music downloads when “people stop buying.”
Now, it looks like music downloads are getting another kick towards the door.
We’re not sure if paid downloads are entirely out in the cold. But the writing’s on the wall. On its all-important Mac, Apple is officially splitting iTunes into more focused apps: Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts. That’s the beginning of a move away from the ultra-consolidated iTunes, and part of an ongoing sunset for downloadable music.
Amazingly, it was music downloads that started the whole ‘iTunes Music Store’ back in the early 2000s. But the format is now an obsolete memory, thanks surges in streaming.
So far, in the latest financials from the Big 3 — Warner, Sony, and Universal Music — streaming revenue has continued to fuel each major label’s respective bottom line. Over at Warner Music Group, for example, digital revenue jumped 29.4% in the first fiscal quarter of 2019. In Sony Music’s Q4 2019 (our Q1 2019), streaming revenue grew 9.2% year-over-year to $503.7 million. Thanks to streaming, Universal Music Group’s Q1 2019 revenue jumped 19.2% to $1.7 billion.
Digital downloads, however, have all-but-died-out. Download revenue at Sony Music fell 26.9% year-over-year to $354 million. Ditto for Universal Music Group. Download revenue plummeted 18.2% to $115 million. Warner Music Group combines both streaming and download revenue under ‘digital revenue,’ making it difficult to calculate how far downloads have plummeted.
Now, with WWDC 2019 underway, iTunes will officially bid farewell.
Farewell, iTunes. We will miss thee.
Not everyone took the news of iTunes’ impending death quietly.
Days after the report broke that Apple would shutter the popular music store and software bundle, the Content Creators Coalition, a leading musician advocacy group, formally requested the Cupertino company preserve music downloads.
In an open letter, the group wrote,
“We have noted that in recent reports, Apple is considering eliminating paid music downloads. While we understand [the company] has indicated those reports are not accurate, we are taking this opportunity to communicate how important downloads are to the music community and to express our hope that you will continue offering them to music fans…”
Despite the strong push from music industry advocates, it looks like the Cupertino giant will indeed sunset the popular music download store. But as sources previously told Digital Music News, actual MP3 (and AAC) collections won’t be removed. Instead, Mac users can still sync up their iOS devices with the music libraries, using the Mac Finder. Backup-and-restore will also be available.
We’re still awaiting word on whether or not the new Music app will sell MP3 and AAC files, and whether or not the store will give users access to their previously purchased downloads.
Writer Mark Gurman explains this follows the company’s new app strategy, unifying its highly-profitable Services division.
“iTunes has been the way Apple users listen to music, watch movies, and TV shows, hear podcasts, and manage their devices for almost two decades. This year, Apple is finally ready to move into a new era. The company is launching a trio of new apps for the Mac – Music, TV, and Podcasts – to replace iTunes. That matches Apple’s media app strategy on iPhones and iPads. Without iTunes, customers can manage their Apple gadgets through the Music app.”
In addition, the company will make its Watch and iPad more independent.
On Twitter, he wrote,
“I haven’t seen it reported elsewhere, but as of last weekend all http://itunes.apple.com links redirect to http://music.apple.com — a likely indicator that the brand is done (the app will be fine for those of us who need it.)”
The itunes.apple.com link still works, meaning the shift will remain gradual until its official ‘closure’ at WWDC. In addition, the company also removed all references to its former popular app on its Facebook last Friday. These include posts, photos, and videos.
The company has built its Music and TV apps using iTunes’ framework.
Featured image by iTunes.