Before iTunes, music was different. Buying a song meant walking into a physical store and buying a physical record or CD. All that has changed.
iTunes not only made it easier to find the music you wanted to listen to, it also made it easier to buy music. Today we are used to digital content marketplaces, like the App Store and Google Play Store, but this idea of centralizing and distributing content entirely online started with iTunes. It helped us move from an analog music world to today’s digital music landscape.
So here are all the ways iTunes has changed music.
6. It killed the album
Before iTunes, most music artists and record labels focused on releasing albums, much like they had for decades before. It made sense. At the time, consumers were still going to music stores and buying mostly physical CDs. As a consumer, if you didn’t want to shell out for the full album, you had to hope that the song you wanted would be released as a single and buy that instead.
With iTunes, you no longer have to buy an entire album just to listen to a single song. It meant you could get the songs you wanted, and you could get them for a lot less money. Consumers loved it. But because so many people were starting to buy individual songs and ignore albums, the music industry was forced to adapt. This meant releasing more singles and diverting attention from longer albums and projects.
5. It made music more accessible
iTunes not only made it easier to get music, but it made music cheaper and more accessible to the masses. Instead of requiring consumers to shell out $15 or more for a CD, iTunes launched by selling most songs for just $0.99 each, and you could get most albums for $10.
Even if you had money, finding the album you wanted to buy could be a challenge before iTunes. If you were looking for a specific album, especially if it was from a lesser-known artist, that might mean scouring town to various record stores and retailers to try and find it. With iTunes, on the other hand, you can find almost any song you want to hear with just a quick search.
4. You could keep your songs forever
Before iTunes, even if you burned your own MP3s or turned to illegal websites to download your music, that didn’t mean you could keep it forever. Physical CDs and discs can be lost, broken or stolen. Even digital media like MP3s can be lost if your computer crashes or you lose access to it.
But because the iTunes Store is based and backed up on Apple’s servers, it not only lets you access your music and media on one device, but on almost any Internet-connected device. It also means that you can re-download your purchases as many times as needed.
Although we often take cloud-based services like Google Drive and iCloud for granted today, back in 2003, building a cloud-based music marketplace was a bold move for Apple. And it was the one that paid big time. Nothing in life is ever 100% secure, and it’s always possible to lose access to your iTunes account. But for the most part, iTunes is a place where you can buy something and keep it forever.
3. It created an entirely new business model
Today we are quite comfortable with the idea of buying content online. But before iTunes, buying a digital copy of anything was a novel idea for many people.
The iTunes Store was one of the first major marketplaces for digital content. It was a bold move for Apple to go digital in a still predominantly analog world. The iTunes Store was launched at a time when Blockbuster Video was still a force to be reckoned with, and Netflix wouldn’t even start streaming content until four years later.
iTunes started with just music, but it grew quickly. It’s become not just a music marketplace, but a place where you can find audiobooks, podcasts, and more. In 2005, movies and videos became available for purchase on the platform. The iTunes Store has quickly evolved from an online shopping experience to a veritable digital content powerhouse.
2. It led to the birth of music streaming
These days, most people subscribe to some kind of music streaming service. Although it can be difficult to choose between Apple Music and Spotify, whichever platform you choose, you can access a huge library of songs for a low monthly fee.
But these types of services might not have been developed without the impact of iTunes. iTunes has proven that the internet is good enough to allow users to easily download and stream content. And perhaps most importantly, iTunes proved that people were willing to spend real money on all-digital content.
Today we live in a golden age of music. It’s never been easier to access the music you want to listen to and discover entirely new songs and artists. But we might not have gotten here without iTunes.
1. It helped create the Apple ecosystem
Everyone knows that iTunes was designed to support iPod. iTunes has made it easy to buy, store and download your music on Apple’s MP3 player. But there was just one glaring problem: early iPods couldn’t access the Internet. The history of iPod dates back to 2001, with the release of the first generation iPod. But there wouldn’t be an iPod with Wi-Fi capability until 2007, when the iPod touch was released.
So how were you supposed to transfer the music you purchased from iTunes to your iPod?
Personal computers bridged the gap between the iTunes Store and the iPod. Although iTunes is compatible with Windows computers, the easiest way to run iTunes and transfer your music from iTunes to your iPod was using a Mac. It was a great combination. You’ve used your Mac to browse, buy and download your music, and you’ve used your iPod to listen to it.
Although Apple discontinued the iPod in 2022, iTunes was the start of the Apple ecosystem as we know it, and Apple hasn’t looked back since.
Without iTunes, music wouldn’t sound the same
Not only did iTunes help make the iPod the most successful music player of all time, but it also made waves in the music and tech industries. Although most people have moved on from iTunes (largely because Apple discontinued it on macOS), without iTunes there would be no Apple Music, and there would be no Spotify.
iTunes has helped the world move from physical CDs and discs to today’s digital and cloud-based content libraries. Whether it’s how we found music, how we bought it, or how we listened to it, there’s no doubt that iTunes has changed music forever.