R.I.P. iTunes: The one-time "savior" of recorded music to be shut down

(May 31, 2019) It would have seemed unthinkable ten years ago, but iTunes will soon be a thing of the past. According to BloombergApple will soon kill off the once game changing app, instead creating a series of new, independent apps for podcasts, music and television. [Publisher's Note: Apple has subsequently indicated that the new music app will still allow the purchase of mp3s and the essential functionality of iTunes, so users will not lose their existing music]

(May 31, 2019) It would have seemed unthinkable ten years ago, but iTunes will soon be a thing of the past. According to BloombergApple will soon kill off the once game changing app, instead creating a series of new, independent apps for podcasts, music and television. [Publisher's Note: Apple has subsequently indicated that the new music app will still allow the purchase of mp3s and the essential functionality of iTunes, so users will not lose their existing music]

It was nearly two decades ago that Steve Jobs and company launched iTunes, later pairing it with the game-changing new iPod device. The combination would become wildly successful, and commenced the rebirth of the long struggling Apple, raising it from an also-ran, to a brief period as the most valuable company on earth. Many people forget that iTunes was viewed at the time as the "savior" of recorded music, and an alternative to the rampant illegal file sharing that came with the emergence of Napster a few years earlier. Jobs negotiated hard with the record labels, winning a battle to both allow single song downloads and a price of 99 cents, a stunning win during a period when CDs were selling for $15 or more.

iTunes slowed (but did not stop) illegal file sharing, and opened the door for mp3s to become the dominant form of music consumption. But instead of having the long life originally anticipated, within a decade iTunes was overshadowed by the emerging platform of music streaming, with Spotify leading the way and Apple introducing its own successful streaming alternative, Apple Music. Ironically, the CD format that was replaced by iTunes ultimately had a longer life, and vinyl, which was the predecessor to CDs, shockingly became the only physical format to grow year after year, now more than a decade into its second life.

Deep music fans will always have mixed feelings about iTunes. It certainly provided a new source of revenue to artists, even as it began (or arguably continued) a trend toward lower sonic expectations, and the dreaded "loss" that occurred as rich musical files were condensed into more manageable sizes on the device. What is without dispute is that it gave a new level of freedom and convenience to music listeners, as they could carry their music with them in the mall, on the subway, at the beach, or just about anywhere. And that freedom ultimately became iTunes' biggest asset. My first iPod in 2003 was more than a simple device. It became my constant companion and a revelation in a way that it is tough to imagine now.

I don't know that there will be many tears shed for the end of iTunes -- it has been fairly irrelevant for several years -- but it will certainly hold an important place in the history of recorded music, and in the memories of many of us who had iPods in our pockets or purses 24/7.

By Chris Rizik

 

 
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