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Ten years ago yesterday, the way we listen, collate and even just consider music, changed. On 28 April 2003 Apple launched the iTunes Music Store *. A decade later and it’s just days since social network Twitter launched – an iPhone and web app designed to help people sample and share their current favourite music –  and it’s partner to purchase the previewed track from? iTunes. It really has become the dominant force.

Pre-iTunes, digital music was at a cross-roads. Illegal downloads were threatening to get out of control and because of that many record labels, producers and artists were reluctant to move into digital formats. iTunes made  the world change the way it did music. In effect iTunes was the biggest influence in ensuring people continued to pay for their music.

Many would argue, iTunes’ parent, Apple, did so only to boost it’s own profits and indeed the insular format of iTunes certainly forced up sales of Apple hardware. Many, argue it is wrong to combine audio library management tools with a music download service and others complain about the restrictive digital rights management (DRM) that comes with iTunes downloads, but you can’t argue about its influence or success as 10 years on it is still head and shoulders above competitors in terms of popularity.

Love it or loathe it iTunes continues to grow, evolve and lies at the heart of Apple’s resurgence as a genuine competitor to PC based computing. The iTunes Music Store led to third-generation iPods and many regenerations since. It also led to the success of the iPhone and of the iPad too, not forgetting MacBooks, Apple TV et al, all part of Steve Jobs’ “digital hub” strategy.

Apple does love iTunes and with stats like this who can blame them

  • 40 billion apps downloaded
  • 25 billion songs sold – that’s over 15,000 songs downloaded every minute
  • 1 billion courses downloaded on iTunes U
  • More than 100 million books on iBookstore

Apple are celebrating that decade with a very interesting interactive timeline ‘A Decade of iTunes’ (you need iTunes loaded on your machine in true Apple style). Well worth a look as it is thought-provoking to see how digital music really has changed over that time.

The question arising is where does it go now. Spotify has certainly begun to become a force to rival iTunes as more and more people live their lives permanently online. Integration into mobile is well established, but could the next step be integration of these services into more traditional technology such as in car entertainment systems and home music systems? Will the next decade even see a new model or new way of delivering music that we haven’t even contemplated? We wait to see…

* The iTunes Store UK wasn’t launched until 15 June of that year.

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