What’s up with iTunes? At the ripe age of 1, the innovative market solution for legal music downloads has brought almost $70 million into Apple Computer’s coffers while reinventing commercial music choices for consumers. Other music retailers, including the behemoth known as Wal-Mart, have taken notice and followed suit.
CDs? So yesterday, Dude.
Before iTunes, the mushrooming problem of illegal downloads seemed, at least to the music industry, a challenge to its existence that could only be addressed by going after downloaders – like the University of Minnesota students last week – still being pursued. The iTunes bridge hasn’t ended the freewheeling theft of music and other recordings, but it has crafted technology and a workable commercial model.
For 99 cents, any user of a Mac or PC can download a song from the iTunes Music Store, playing it either on the computer or on the portable iPod. iTunes downloads are selling at the clip of 2.7 million a week. In the first year, 70 million were sold.
At a time when the music industry is still going after kids who downloaded illegally during the bad, old days of MP3 experimentation, the success of the iTunes delivery system has jazzed up the market for a wide range of players that seem to be well on the way toward imbedding easy, legal consumer choice into the music market.
The music industry gets a paying market from downloads to supplement its dysfunctional old-tech distribution. The consumer now gets personal playlists, buying only what she or he wants, without resorting to petty theft. The tech industry gets to sell a new platform.