Apple execs say 'no end date' to iTunes downloads, sales in better-than-expected decline

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
There is no official wind-down schedule for iTunes music downloads, and while sales are on the decline they're still doing better than expected, Apple's head of internet software and services said in an interview published Tuesday.




"There's no end date, and as a matter of fact, [labels and publishers] should all be surprised and thankful to the results that they're seeing because our music iTunes business is doing very well," Eddy Cue told Billboard. He suggested that the decline is being staunched partly because "a lot" of people are content with downloading music and not veering towards subscriptions.

Another Apple executive, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, said it was "inevitable that downloads will diminish" -- much like CD sales crashed in the 2000s -- but also argued that there was no reason downloads couldn't co-exist with streaming, in the same way people still buy vinyl.

Recent Digital Music News reports have claimed that Apple is preparing to phase out iTunes downloads in the next few years in favor of Apple Music. Earlier this month the site said that Apple is simply keeping its options open, and rearchitecting iTunes in a way that will let it drop music downloads if sales fall dramatically.

In 2015, streaming revenues surpassed downloads for the first time as people increasingly turned to services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. Apple Music recently hit 15 million paid subscribers, about half of Spotify's, although the latter also has many listeners on its free ad-supported tier.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    Good to hear. I for one do not stream anything. Why should I have to pay by the bit for the bandwidth and again for the item to be streamed. Maybe I'm just an old skinflint but I'd rather buy the item than rent it for the duration of the song.
    I'm buying Vinyl again as well. Sorry Apple, spotify etc streaming is not for me so please continue to offer an alternative service.

    napoleon_phoneapartmike1oseamepscooter63cincyteemac_dog1983
  • Reply 2 of 19
    How am I going to use streaming music to portable slideshows without access to Mac or Internet? Anybody thought about that music is not just for itself, but it could be used for illustrations? Sounds like pop-corn is for watching TV only. I know it is driven by profit, but then provide some options for those who need something else. I still buy music from iTunes and sometimes even on CD (I decide on encoding format and quality - not computer/system vendor).
    oseame
  • Reply 3 of 19
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,393member
    I like the streaming service, as I easily spent more than the subscription fee buying music. Now I can do a lot more exploring of new music or diving deep into an artist's catalog without paying a purchase price for something I might only listen to once or twice. On the other hand, I like the idea of still being able to buy favorites that I'll be able to keep even if I should let the subscription expire. Unless there is something mysteriously difficult about the back-end licensing and contracting of for-purchase content, I can't see why Apple wouldn't maintain both options. The technical end for differently tagging rented DRM content versus purchased non-DRM content already exists, so that shouldn't be a barrier.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    The fact is, this is already happening. Maybe not with music, but it's happening with movies. Ever notice you CAN'T download iTunes extras anymore? It HAS to be viewed while you're connected to the Internet, not locally from your computer.  This is something that I paid for, but not allowed to consume without an Internet connection, why?
    bdkennedy1002
  • Reply 5 of 19
    NemWanNemWan Posts: 118member
    The only people who have a reason to want downloads to go away are music companies would would rather be paid every time a song is played, as they are with streaming. I like having a large collection that works without the Internet.
    1983
  • Reply 6 of 19
    I think streaming appeals to those who didn't have a lot of music to begin with. Those of us who've spent a decade or more assembling a library...we already own most of what we want. 
    bonobob1983
  • Reply 7 of 19
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    Is there a reason Apple can't combine Music and iTunes Music store? There's got to be a way to clearly identify what is streamable vs what you have to buy. But at least if you have a partial album you wouldn't have go to another app to purchase the rest of it. Nor would you need to go to a separate app to preview stuff.
  • Reply 8 of 19
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,291member
    Is there a reason Apple can't combine Music and iTunes Music store? There's got to be a way to clearly identify what is streamable vs what you have to buy. But at least if you have a partial album you wouldn't have go to another app to purchase the rest of it. Nor would you need to go to a separate app to preview stuff.
    The exact reason Apple can't combine Apple Music and iTunes Music is to separate what is stream-able vs what you have to buy. Imagine the headache they combined the two. Almost all that you can buy is already stream-able anyway, and by stream-able it is also downloadable (which they call "offline copies"). I stop buying music when I joined Apple Music. I still have my complete old library (which I hardly listen to now), but I like Apple Music more these days. Those that I can't find I will just buy from Store. It's just that I am not someone who listen to the same music every week, so Apple Music suits me better.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,526moderator
    The ideal way this would work is, you pay a reasonable subscription fee, like the current $9.99 per month to stream as much as you want and to click the + button on as many songs as you like, to add them locally and to your self-managed playlists.  This all exists today in Apple Music, though I haven't actually tried disconnecting from my wifi to see if a downloaded track will still play.  It certainly should as all the device needs is your subscription paid-through date to know whether you're still a member of the service.  I suspect it does work this way already.  Sure hope so, as I would like to load up before traveling to the Philippines later this year and be able to listen to a large library of tracks while outside the Apple Music universe, while continuing to pay my subscription.  (I could use a VPN with proxy service to emulate connecting from within the U.S., but that still leaves the spotty and slow internet in some of the places I'll be visiting.)

    Also, ideally, there would be separate tiers for different encoding, so true audiophiles (I'm not one) could stream, or at least download, higher quality sound.  And finally, when leaving the service (ending a subscription) it'd be great for the service to give you an option to then choose those downloaded [rented] tracks you'd like to buy and perhaps offer a volume discount of the big one-time purchase.

    If the above were in place, then it's a simple matter of math.  A subscription for the rest of your life, say 30 years of music listening, would cost  $3600.  And that's $3600 spread across 30 years.  Assume cheaper dollars in the future (net present value of future money), but offset by rising subscription costs to make up for inflation.   But still, it's spread across 30 years.  And that would give you the ability to download and create your own playlists against a library of 600, 6000, or 60,000 songs, or any other number you could dedicate the time to select and the space to store.  And it wouldn't be a static library of music, but a library of music you could constantly refresh as you used the streaming service to discovery new music.  What does such an ability cost under the iTunes download-and-own model?  An initial $6000, or $60,000, plus constant outlay to refresh and update the library?  Hmm, seems streaming, if implemented properly, and with the appropriate perspective on the part of the customer, is an amazing bargain.
    edited June 2016
  • Reply 10 of 19
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,291member
    @radarthekat ;
    I can confirm all the offline copies work without internet for as long as you log in with your membership account.

    I personally don't like the idea of separate tiers for better quality. Yes, I can pay more for that, but why should I. As a paid member I expect all my songs should be in the highest quality that they can offer. I will be disappointed if I knew they also have better version but need to pay more for that.


  • Reply 11 of 19
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    kevin kee said:
    Is there a reason Apple can't combine Music and iTunes Music store? There's got to be a way to clearly identify what is streamable vs what you have to buy. But at least if you have a partial album you wouldn't have go to another app to purchase the rest of it. Nor would you need to go to a separate app to preview stuff.
    The exact reason Apple can't combine Apple Music and iTunes Music is to separate what is stream-able vs what you have to buy. Imagine the headache they combined the two. Almost all that you can buy is already stream-able anyway, and by stream-able it is also downloadable (which they call "offline copies"). I stop buying music when I joined Apple Music. I still have my complete old library (which I hardly listen to now), but I like Apple Music more these days. Those that I can't find I will just buy from Store. It's just that I am not someone who listen to the same music every week, so Apple Music suits me better.
    They're already somewhat combined because Music was bolted on to the music app (which some people with large personal music libraries were not happy about). I'm playing music right now that isn't available on Music. It's silly that you have separate apps for renting vs buying music. If you started playing a song that wasn't available on Music Apple could put up a message that said the song was only available for purchase and ask you if you want to buy it. I'll bet more people would buy music if they could do it inside of Music. 
  • Reply 12 of 19
    I thought it was a stupid rumor. Made no sense. But reporters got a lot of hits writing about it.
    mattinoz
  • Reply 13 of 19

    For me it's stream to discover and download/ buy to enjoy.

    I love the curated playlists that help me discover stuff old and new. If I stream a song more than once, I just end up saving it off-line onto a playlist called "Caught on Stream".

    Since Apple Music launched, I've discovered tons of songs I really love, which I wouldn't have had a chance to hear.

    However, there are artists I blind-buy on iTunes.

    As far as radio goes, surprisingly the one I listen to the most is BBC Radio! Then again, who doesn't love the English accent!!


    edited June 2016
  • Reply 14 of 19
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,907member
    You should fix the headline "Apple laughed off dumb rumour"?
  • Reply 15 of 19
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member
    Is it just me, or do all of these comments from Apple sound like they've been planning it and it's coming? Far from being a "dumb rumor" this is apparently serious discussion! When did this happen ... ?
  • Reply 16 of 19
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,541member
    The ideal way this would work is, you pay a reasonable subscription fee, like the current $9.99 per month to stream as much as you want and to click the + button on as many songs as you like, to add them locally and to your self-managed playlists.  This all exists today in Apple Music, though I haven't actually tried disconnecting from my wifi to see if a downloaded track will still play.  It certainly should as all the device needs is your subscription paid-through date to know whether you're still a member of the service.  I suspect it does work this way already.  Sure hope so, as I would like to load up before traveling to the Philippines later this year and be able to listen to a large library of tracks while outside the Apple Music universe, while continuing to pay my subscription.  (I could use a VPN with proxy service to emulate connecting from within the U.S., but that still leaves the spotty and slow internet in some of the places I'll be visiting.)

    Also, ideally, there would be separate tiers for different encoding, so true audiophiles (I'm not one) could stream, or at least download, higher quality sound.  And finally, when leaving the service (ending a subscription) it'd be great for the service to give you an option to then choose those downloaded [rented] tracks you'd like to buy and perhaps offer a volume discount of the big one-time purchase.

    If the above were in place, then it's a simple matter of math.  A subscription for the rest of your life, say 30 years of music listening, would cost  $3600.  And that's $3600 spread across 30 years.  Assume cheaper dollars in the future (net present value of future money), but offset by rising subscription costs to make up for inflation.   But still, it's spread across 30 years.  And that would give you the ability to download and create your own playlists against a library of 600, 6000, or 60,000 songs, or any other number you could dedicate the time to select and the space to store.  And it wouldn't be a static library of music, but a library of music you could constantly refresh as you used the streaming service to discovery new music.  What does such an ability cost under the iTunes download-and-own model?  An initial $6000, or $60,000, plus constant outlay to refresh and update the library?  Hmm, seems streaming, if implemented properly, and with the appropriate perspective on the part of the customer, is an amazing bargain.
    Interesting.  I hadn't done the math before, but you are right - for someone starting out it makes far more sense to pay for the subscription.  For someone like me, a little more advanced in the years and having collected CD's and iTunes tracks for many years, it is different.  I am more supplementing my collection over time, and so would spend less than $10/month on new music.  So for now, I am not an Apple Music subscriber, but as my kids get older that may change.
  • Reply 17 of 19
    19831983 Posts: 1,225member
    I am one of those people content with downloading music, from iTunes and elsewhere. I like to own my music, not rent it!
  • Reply 18 of 19
    19831983 Posts: 1,225member
    I think streaming appeals to those who didn't have a lot of music to begin with. Those of us who've spent a decade or more assembling a library...we already own most of what we want. 
    Exactly!
  • Reply 19 of 19
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 1,083member
    I do it all... huge trumpian vinyl collection, large CD collection, few downloaded tracks (often from new vinyl purchase download coupons).

    I also subscribe to Apple Music. It surprises me that "music owners" don't see the value of streaming.  It is an amazing bargain.  For $10-15/month you have access to millions of tracks.  I save more than $15/month by finding out that I don't have to buy a certain album on vinyl, CD, DL.  It is great for sampling "deluxe" box sets to see if the extra tracks are worth rebuying an album a second time.  Plus I listen to music I never ever would have took a gamble on.

    It is not an either/or proposition.
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