Report: Apple Is Killing Off iTunes Music

We don't normally report on tech rumours at Lifehacker, but we felt this one needed to be brought to your attention. According to a report on Digital Music News, the Cupertino juggernaut will be killing off iTunes music downloads entirely within two to four years. It's not a matter of if, but when.

An inside source with "close and active business relationships with Apple" allegedly leaked internal discussions to Digital Music News which paint a very bleak picture for the future of iTunes. The music download service will be permanently retired in favour of its streaming successor Apple Music -- and it's going to happen sooner rather than later.

A range of shutdown scenarios have apparently been tabled, with the most aggressive being to end all song sales within the next two years. The company is also considering "riding out" iTunes sales for the next three to four years.

Appleā€™s termination could also be staggered with countries selected based on streaming adoption rates. In this scenario, Australia, which has embraced music streaming wholeheartedly, would likely be one of the first markets to face the axe.

Whichever strategy is ultimately adopted, one thing appears to be certain: paid music downloads will no longer be part of Apple's future. The question now becomes why?

While iTunes music downloads are still worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Apple, revenue has been spiraling downwards thanks to the runaway success of streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple's own Apple Music.

According to music industry analysts, music downloads are set to decline by as much as 30 per cent in 2016. Killing off iTunes music despite being profitable makes more sense in this context. Apple is just getting out while the getting's good.

Perhaps not unrelatedly, Apple is expected to unveil a big update to Apple Music at its annual developers conference this June. We can largely blame/thank Spotify for all this -- just like Apple did with the launch of the iPod, the streaming service has completely transformed the music industry, forcing larger players to play catch up or sink fast.

We're personally of two minds about this. On the one hand, streaming is clearly the future of music -- it's more convenient, more affordable and ties directly into the connected devices we use on a daily basis. On the other hand, the ability to "own" music content, even if it was only digital, is something we're going to miss. (Sure, it's possible to download music for offline listening with Apple Music, but it's not the same thing.)

What do you guys make of all this? Do any of you still buy music downloads (of heaven forbid, CDs)? If you're an iOS user, have you migrated to Apple Music yet or are you still sticking with iTunes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

[Via Digital Music News]


Comments

    Soon to be echoed throughout the Internets: "Whaddya mean I was only renting the songs? I bought them with my own god damned money."

    Of course I buy music. If I was restricted to the paltry selection that Apple et al sell and stream in Australia, then most artists and labels I listen to would be unavailable. Thank goodness for Bandcamp and VPNs that allow me to buy direct from overseas digital stores.

    Some days I think that I've woken up in 1983 again where the only way to access most music is on vinyl.

      Yup. Streaming & iTunes does not provide adequate esoteric or legacy artists. And if I buy online I prefer bundled download and digital files because I want cd quality. Even if lossless is available it's limited by AirPlay streaming quality.
      Doesn't matter the service, streaming is not up to my standards for quality or catalogue.

        It's not uncommon to find an album on Bandcamp that is cheaper than on iTunes, and it's available as FLAC rather than Apple's "tuned for shitty earplugs" format.

        With many distributors of overseas classical,jazz and indie labels having simply shut up shop with no stores to distribute to, a VPN (or tolerance for high shipping costs) is now the only way to get labels/genres I could buy off the shelf pre-iTunes.

    Won't be sad to see iTunes Music go, but it would be nice if they fixed Apple Music offline play first.

    The only reason to shut it down is if you expect to start losing money on it. Given that it essentially costs Apple almost nothing (because the infrastructure still needs to be there to support streaming) the only way it can cost them money is if they think that people are foregoing a subscription service in favor of buy and download. Shutting it down would then "Force" people to take out a subscription. I find the idea that Apple would think that was a good idea implausible, but it's possible. Apple doesn't have your interests at heart, but it does want to avoid actively pissing you off. I suspect what was actually discussed was along the lines of "At what point do we expect download revenue to be negligible?" given the 15 - 25% reduction year on year they are seeing. With the answer being when they think it should get shut off. i.e. "With the way downloads vs streaming are trending, possibly in as early as two years time no-one will care if we shut off downloads, but more likely we can ride out another 3-4 years of download sales"

      Well, it's kind of the Microsoft/Adobe approach. Why get someone to buy something as a one off, when we can provide it in a SAAS environment that eliminates the cyclical nature of artist releases.

      I'm sure they've got clever people doing the maths, but I can see that the idea of tying people into an ongoing monthly subscription that can't be moved to another ecosystem might have traction with their decision makers. Makes the garden walls that little bit higher.

    With Apple Music deleting all your music by default on your computer, a lot of people are going to be pissed unless they change that.

      A lot of people are already pissed. What kind of a feature deletes files off your hard drive?

    I still buy CD's and have bought some music reluctantly off Google. But usually only albums I can't get my hands of in physical form.

    If I pay for music, it's a CD. After going to a concert last week, I went out the next day & bought the Album, And that of the support act- whom I'd never heard of until the concert.
    Otherwise, Spotify Free & the good ol' FM Radio do me just fine!

    I was mocked a bit when I bought Prince's Greatest Hits CD into the office to play shortly after he died (I'm the only one over 30). "Why are you still buying physical shit?"

    1. My car has no easily accessible aux input; it's either CDs or radio.
    2. My mobile's data cap isn't large enough that I can stream with impunity (and it's a work phone so I can't increase it).
    3. I have it in my hand and I can do as I wish with it. Play it on an iPhone? Sure, pop it into iTunes and convert it to AAC as it goes. Using Android now? Pop it back in and convert songs to FLAC/MP3/whatever I want, can't do that if I bought it off iTunes or I'm streaming it (depending on how easy it is to save a stream and/or crack DRM but whatever).

    The only online music shop I generally use is Bandcamp.

    It would be sad to see iTunes stop selling downloads. Whilst I do use streaming services like Spotify, I do still purchase music on CD, vinyl and through services like iTunes.

    Whilst streaming services do offer access to a vast array of music for one monthly fee, they also have downsides. Chief among them is that your license to listen to that music only lasts as long as you pay the subscription - and as long as the service provides them and as long as you have access to the service.

    Many people don't realise how ephemeral streaming music is. Say you settle on a service like Spotify. The user interface works for you, the price is right, they have a selection of content you like and its compatible with all your devices. You sign up, and all is well in the world.

    The problem is: any one of those things can change.

    Spotify could lose the rights to distribute music from a certain label or band. All of a sudden, albums in your collection disappear without a trace. I've personally had this happen to me. But also, there's no guarantee that a particular future release will be available on the service you use. Kanye West's latest album was (initially) only available on Tidal. The recent Radiohead album is currently only available on Apple Music. As long as exclusivity agreements exist in the streaming domain, consumers will suffer. CDs, being free of DRM, can't be as easily constrained.

    The devices you use may find themselves no longer supported. The Spotify client integrated into your amp may no longer be supported. Even worse, the music service you once used and spent time curating a collection in may simply cease to exist or be amalgamated: Music Unlimited, rdio, JB HiFi Now, MOG have all fallen victim to this.

    And whilst the price might be right now, who is to say prices won't increase when there's less competition? What costs $10.00 a month now might cost $30.00 once access to physical media and DRM free MP3s is less common.

    The common theme is: everything about streaming services is subject to change without notice. What might be an appealing offering now may not be in the future.

    CDs and DRM-free MP3s don't have this problem. Once you own them, your license can't be revoked. The license is transferrable. They will continue to work with equipment you own unless you make a change. You're in control of your ecosystem and the factors that will cause that ecosystem to change.

    I'll continue to sue Spotify because it's a great way to discover new music. But for music I love, I will always purchase a copy to own, because I'd never want to find myself without access to the music I love.

    Yeah, we still buy music. I don't want to have to rely on what they decide that I should be able to listen to.
    And it'll end up like Netflix and Stan &c, where you'll need three different subscriptions to cover everything that you want to listen to. And then at the end of the month they'll remove it and the song that you want to listen to won't be there.

    i old school. will buy my music, download or CD. don't want to stream my music. what happens when i go travel o/seas or camping out of even telstra coverage.. so i gotta download it anyway before hand.. so the isp are happy, they got peeps addicted to data and we gladly/blindly just keep paying download to her stuff we already own...

    I wonder if Apple will also shut down the Movie/TV store section as well in favor of Apple Music in the future. If they do, then Apple TV will be pointless. I am ashamed of buying the $70 gadget now, since it will be obsolete in the future if they shut down the entire Itunes Store! I guess it is back to Blu-Rays and CDs for me!

    Bad move IMO. Purchasing music and streaming music both have their place, and they would be much better off having a finger in both pies.

    Won't happen. They'll just combine them into one service like Google does. Its stupid that its two separate services.

    Terrible move in my opinion. Im not interested in streaming music or subscribing monthly to a service - i like to be able to pay once for a song i want and ownit for good. This is just making it harder to access music legally especially for people with limited internet access

    I still buy vinyl, CDs and digital media (download or stream). Each has its place.

    My opinion? This would be shit.
    Shit.
    I don't want to pay a monthly subscription to streaming music; then I essentially have to pay twice for listening to music (once for the subscription, and once for all the data it chews up). For someone like me, who doesn't buy new music that often, paying each month simply isn't cost effective. I would be paying a hell of a lot more, for less of a service.
    I dont understand how this business model would work for people who dont feel the need to buy a lot of music each year. I only buy a few new songs here and there, definitely not a similar cost to a year's worth of Apple Music.
    What alternatives would there be for buying music after this happens?

Join the discussion!